Spiders' sticky 'glue' also acts as microscopic web spools

Spiders create a special sort of 'hybrid' substance for their web that keeps the silky threads taunt even after they're stretched out, according to researchers, and that discovery has been used to create a so-called liquid wire with the same properties. The spider's substance is described as a watery glue deposited in tiny drops onto the threads; when a piece of silk is pulled on or stretched out, it spools within the droplets, keeping the threads taunt and thusly maintaining the structure of the web.

That discovery has recently been detailed in a study from researchers with Universite Pierre et Marie Curie and the University of Oxford. Using this knowledge, the researchers created their own composite fibers that can be stretched and then compress like a liquid.

The video above shows how the fiber spools in the 'glue' droplets, and how it unwraps when pulled. In the researchers' efforts, they used a plastic filament with droplets of oil and were able to create the same spooling effect. The creation demonstrates how the biological process works, but could be used to develop new systems in the future that use the same basic principle.

Examples include man-made stretchable systems that remain taunt by using similar micro-droplets of glue to spool in the slack. No specific projects based on the study have been revealed at this time, however. Spiders and their ultra-strong webs have long fascinated researchers, who have used the critters to develop other potential technologies; check out the timeline below for two examples!

SOURCE: EurekAlert