Machine Design

Spinning synthetic spider silk

For years, scientists have attempted to create a synthetic form of spider silk because of its high-strength and energy-absorption qualities.

Lab-created material will be spun into a spiderweblike substance.

However, unlike silkworms, spiders cannot be domesticated because of their territorial and cannibalistic tendencies. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers are focusing on creating materials to make high-strength fibers that may one day see use in artificial tendons, specialty textiles, and lightweight, bulletproof gear. Spider silk is a polymer with two distinct alternating regions. One region is soft and elastic; the other forms small, hard crystallites. Researchers are attempting to make a series of different synthetic polymers and study how changes in the polymer chemical structures affect its physical properties. This research is in conjunction with the study of processing techniques that will maintain the unusual properties of the material produced.

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