How Strong is a Spider Web?
Among the wonders of nature is the spider web. Spiders weave a silk web to catch food. They can also use the silk to attract mates. Some species even coat their webs with sex pheromones to attract their mates.
Scientists have recently discovered how spiders create these super strong webs. The process involves thousands of nanostrands, each less than a millimeter in diameter. Each strand is made of protein molecules aligned tightly together.
Scientists have found that these strands are much tougher than steel. In fact, they are stronger than Kevlar carbon fiber. Using their findings, scientists hope to design super strong materials.
Spiders make silk from proteins. When the web is formed, these proteins are folded into an intricate structure. Unlike other types of silk, which are typically stiff and brittle, spider silk is flexible and can withstand minor damage without compromising its structure.
Scientists have studied silk from more than twenty-five different spider species. They were surprised to find that the tensile strength of some silks was as strong as some steels. Researchers believe that spiders have evolved to spin webs that are stronger than steel.
Scientists have found that spiders use a special looping technique to reinforce the main silk strands. This technique ensures that the sticky spool will not collapse under large forces.
Scientists have also discovered that spider webs are capable of absorbing hurricane-force winds. While spiders don’t rely on their webs to protect them, they do need to be able to hold up against wind.