Silk little spider has some pretty amazing features. It is one of the strongest materials found in nature, stronger than metal and more durable than Kevlar. It can stretch its length several times before it snaps. For these reasons, repetition of silk spiders in the lab is a bit obscure among the scientists of the material for decades.
Scientists from the University of Cambridge have created new materials that imitate spider silk by strength, stretch and absorption capacity of energy. This material provides the ability to upgrade bicycle helmet products and parachutes to paddles and aerial wings. Potentially most impressive feature of this material? It is made up of 98 percent of water.
“Spiders are interesting models because they are capable of producing this shiny silk fiber at room temperature using water as a solvent,” said Darshil Shah, engineer at the Cambridge Natural Materials Innovation Center. “Spiders have developed this process for hundreds of millions of years, but so far we have not been able to copy it.”
Fibers made from a material called hydrogel, consisting of 98 percent water and 2 percent silicon dioxide and cellulose, of which the latter are linked by macrocyclic compounds to turtle turbines cucurbiturils molecules that serve as “foxes”. Fibers of silica and cellulose can be removed from the hydrogels. After 30 seconds the water evaporates and behind it remains a strong, elongated thread.
The fibers are exceptionally strong – though not as the most powerful silk spiders – and, importantly, they can be made at room temperature without chemical solvents. This means that, if it could be produced in larger volumes, they have an advantage over other synthetic fibers such as nylon, which requires extremely high temperature for weaving, making textile production one of the world’s finest industries. Artificial spiders are also completely biodegradable. Given that it is made of ordinary, easily accessible materials – mainly water, silica and cellulose – has the potential to be inexpensive
The material can absorb so much energy that it could potentially serve as a protective fabric.
“The pacifier needs such absorption capacity because when a bird or fowel goes into their net, she has to be able to absorb it, otherwise it would bust,” Shah said. “So things like resistance to chord or other types of protective military clothing could be an exciting application.”
Other potential applications include sail cloth, parachute fabric, hot air balloon material and bicycle or skate helmets. This material is biocompatible, meaning it can be used within a human body for things like seams.
Fiber could be modified in a number of interesting ways, says Shah. The replacement of cellulose with various polymers could turn silk into a completely different material. The basic method could be repeated in order to obtain versions of many low-temperature fabrics without chemical solvents.
“This is a generic method of making all fibers, which would make all types of fiber [umjetnih] environmentally sound,” Shah said.
Shah and his team are not the only scientists working on creating artificial spiders of silk. Unlike canned silkworms that can be grown, spiders are cannabis which would not bear the necessary breadth for breeding, so laboratory cultivation is the only way to get significant quantities of this material. Every few years, the title of new process developments emerged. German team modified bacteria E. coli to produce silkworm molecules. Scientists from Utah State University breed genetically modified “spider-cats” that produced silk proteins in their milk. The American army tests the “dragon silk” produced by modified silkworms for making pancakes. Earlier this year, scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden published work on a new method of using bacteria in the production of spiderworm protein in a potentially viable, scalable way. The California startup Bolt Threads this spring introduced cravats produced by the bio-engineering of spider silk at the SXSW festival. Their product is made by fermentation of yeast by the process of forming silk proteins that then pass through the funneling process to convert to the fiber. The product was promising enough to partner with the Patagonia exporter
However, as the story published in 2015 Wired, “Up to now, any group that has tried to produce enough of these things to bring it to the mass market, from researchers to corporate giants, he has been experiencing a failure. ”
This is a challenge now faced by Shah and his team
“At present, we can make tens of milligrams of these materials and then get them out of fibers,” he said. “But we want to try to make it on a much larger scale.”
In order to do this, the team works on a robotic device that pulls and tibies faster and faster than before. Some success has been achieved, Shah says, and continue to investigate the process.
“We are still in the early stages of research,” he said.
The findings of the team were recently published in the journal
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences