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The silk of spiders, an example to design artificial materials

The silk of spiders, an example to design artificial materials

A group of scientists from the Center for Biomedical Technology of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (CTB-UPM) has determined that the properties of spider silk are restricted by "very strict" design principles, which were already present before its diversification into Various species.

The initial hypothesis with which the experts worked stated that the “enormous diversification in the qualities of the fibers produced by the different species” of arachnids was the result of 230 million years of evolution, but the comparison of the mechanical properties of different silks has shown Otherwise, this material has maintained a "surprising uniformity" during this time, according to a press release provided by the UPM.

Spanish researchers, who have worked in collaboration with the Integrated Bioscience Group at the University of Akron (Ohio) in the United States, have identified the mechanisms involved in the "extraordinary properties of resistance and deformability" of the spider web, which it has "the highest breaking energy of all known materials."

New artificial materials

The rigid scheme that all silks faithfully follow is based on the existence of three mechanisms that act consecutively and whose combination explains these capacities.

Studies by specialists have proven that the large chains with which this material is formed increase its organization when the thread undergoes large deformations, in contrast to the behavior of most artificial materials.

The permanence of these mechanisms has allowed defining the universal curve that summarizes the mechanical behavior of spider silk regardless of its origin, although not all species manufacture the same type of fiber, each one is characterized by “a single numerical parameter that indicates your position ”on that curve.

The CTB-UPM researcher, José Pérez Rigueiro, has ensured that "the identification now of these principles will allow progress in the production of fibers of high resistance and deformability inspired by the silk of this arachnid" from "novel and different designs of those usually applied ”in the manufacture of artificial materials.

It is, according to Rigueiro, a "very promising area of ​​study with applications in the field of biomaterials and tissue engineering".

Photo: Detail of a spider web, its resistance can inspire new artificial material. EFE / A.Warmuth

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