WILLIAMSBURG — New research by William & Mary scientists has begun to unravel the story behind one of the world’s most elusive materials: spider silk.
In their research, the scientists at William & Mary have found a hierarchy among different silk threads from spiders. The significance to this could lead to greater engineering pursuits, as the structure of spider silk is known for being five times stronger than steel cable of the same weight.
Currently, the Recluse Spider is being used at William & Mary in order to study the properties of spider silk. Scientists have created a highly-detailed structural model of the material, including the seven layers of hierarchy of the material. This has led to the showcasing of the composition of microscopic fibers (or nanofibrils) within spider silk, providing the best picture yet of the silk’s structural makeup.
“Right now, we’re innovating and discovering in tiny steps, but there’s the larger goal of fully understanding the structure of spider silk. This study solves a piece of that puzzle and takes us closer to the larger dream of one day making materials like nature and, in doing so, create a more sustainable world,” said Hannes Schniepp, VMEC Professor of Applied Science at William & Mary.