Graphene-Fed Spiders Spin One of the Strongest Materials on Earth

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Researchers at University of Trento in Italy have found a novel way to increase the overall strength of spider silk. Scientists have developed a synthetic version of spider silk, which is about five times stronger than normal, by adding graphene and carbon nanotubes to a spider’s drinking water.

Graphene is a thin layer of carbon and is currently the world’s strongest material

After taking this special feed, the spiders produced silk as they usually do. However, the silk produced had a tensile strength and toughness that was much higher than that of regular spider silk.

Nicola Pugno, a professor of solid and structural mechanics at the University of Trento, said, “We found that the strongest silk the spiders spun had a fracture strength up to 5.4 gigapascals (GPa), and a toughness modulus up to 1,570 joules per gram (J/g). Normal spider silk, by comparison, has a fracture strength of around 1.5 GPa and a toughness modulus of around 150 J/g. This is the highest fiber toughness discovered to date, and strength comparable to that of the strongest carbon fibers or limpet teeth,” the strongest-known biological material.

He added, “These are still early days, but our results are a proof of concept that paves the way to exploiting the naturally efficient spider spinning process to produce reinforced bionic silk fibers, thus further improving one of the most promising strong materials.”

Although the results show great possibilities, the research is still in its early phase.

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