NetComposites

Connecting you to the composites industry

Advertisement

Spider Silk Reveals a Paradox of Super-strength

  • Monday, 5th April 2010
  • 0 comments
  • Reading time: about 2 minutes

National Science Foundation-supported researchers are untangling some of silk’s most closely guarded secrets, and explaining why it is so strong.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Materials Science and Engineering say the key to silk’s pound-for-pound toughness, which exceeds that of steel, is its beta-sheet crystals, the nano-sized cross-linking domains that hold the material together.

Markus Buehler, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Associate Professor in MIT’s department of civil and environmental engineering, and his team recently used computer models to simulate exactly how the components of beta sheet crystals move and interact with each other. They found that an unusual arrangement of hydrogen bonds–the “”glue”” that stabilizes the beta-sheet crystals–play an important role in defining the strength of silk.

They found that hydrogen bonds, which are among the weakest types of chemical bonds, gain strength when confined to spaces on the order of a few nanometers in size. Once in close proximity, the hydrogen bonds work together and become extremely strong. Moreover, if a hydrogen bond breaks, there are still many hydrogen bonds left that can contribute to the material’s overall strength, due to their ability to “”self-heal”” the beta-sheet crystals.

The researchers conclude that silk’s strength and ductility–its ability to bend or stretch without breaking–results from this peculiar arrangement of atomic bonds. They say controlling the size of the area in which hydrogen or other chemical bonds act can lead to significantly enhanced properties for future materials, even when the initial chemical bonds are very weak.


For more information visit:


Share this article


More News


Comments (0)

Sign in or create an account to join in the discussion.

Leave your comment

Advertisement

Upcoming Events

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Follow us
Subscribe to our email newsletter

Subscribe to receive our weekly round-up of all the industry's latest news, jobs, events and more!

We'll always keep your personal details secure and will never share them with third parties for marketing purposes. You can unsubscribe at any time. For further details on how we may use your data, please visit our Privacy Policy.