A deep secret of spider webs has now been unveiled, and it is certain now that their web strands actually nanofibers that together comprise flat ribbon-like cables.
More Insights into the Spider Web Study
Atomic force microscopy was used by Hannes Schniepp and Qijue Wang to determine that the web strands of the brown recluse spider showcase cable-like properties. One single strand of spider silk, i.e. a web strand of a spider’s web, is about five times stronger than a steel cable having the same weight. The study was carried out at the Department of Applied Science at William and Mary.
A key finding of this study involves the fact that the brown recluse spider does not spin a single strand of protein fiber. Scientists had earlier expected that the fiber spun had a single mass. However, the recent study indicates that the silk was designed in the form of a small cable. Moreover, this discovery comes right after a 2017 finding from the same laboratory that the strength of the brown recluse silk comes from loops spun directly into the structure. This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation.
According to the NSF program director, Mohan Srinivasarao, it is highly important to understand how strong and tough spider silk is. These properties are crucial from the perspective the silk being used as a prime building component in the sectors of materials science and engineering, in the next few years. The director further stated that in order to use the silk for designing other synthetic materials, one has to ensure that its molecular structure and properties are understood in great depth. Hannes Schniepp and Qijue Wang have outlined their findings in a paper, titled, “Strength of Recluse Spider’s Silk Originates from Nanofibrils,” in ACS Macro Letters, a highly-cited journal of the American Chemical Society.