Scientists Create Super Strong Spider-Man Silk

April 27, 2009

(ChattahBox)—A team of German scientists in Australia merged metal with protein-based spider silk at the molecular atomic level, to create a newer and stronger hybrid product that’s up to 10 times stronger and more durable. The fictional character, Peter Parker as Spiderman now has some competition for his stronger than steel web-silk. Head researcher, Mato Knez, of the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Halle, believes the new study has implications for future uses in manufacturing stronger textiles, surgical thread or even synthetic bones

Scientists say it’s not unusual to find bits of metal merged with organic parts of animal’s jaws, stingers and claws. Basing its research on metal composites already existing in the animal kingdom, scientists incorporated zinc, titanium and aluminium ions into natural spider silk, by adapting a method called called atomic layer deposition or ALD.

ALD is a process where gases are used on solid materials to trigger a reaction, allowing manufacturers to coat the materials with a protective shield. The process works by first adding and then removing a gas, which leaves a residue of molecules on the material’s surface. Then a second gas is added that reacts with the left-behind molecules from the first gas, forming a coating.

Scientists devised a method of breaking down the complex spider silk proteins by exposing them to intense hot water vapor. Once the silk proteins became weakened, they were more susceptible to merging with the tiny molecules of metal, when the metals became attached to the shredded protein bonds.

The spider silk scientists then increased the time the gases were exposed to the spider silk, submerging the protein-based silk with the gases, until the metal ions penetrated the structure of the silk itself, changing the basic protein structure into something entirely new.

When tested, the new spider silk-metal hybrid material proved amazingly stronger.

Knez believes the primary importance of his research proves scientists can improve and alter protein-based materials, at their molecular level, raising implications for the technique for use on all sorts of other protein-based materials. Scientists have already used the technology to strengthen collagen fibers and the applications could be endless.

The spider silk study is available in U.S. Journal of Science.



One Response to “Scientists Create Super Strong Spider-Man Silk”

  1. Old Man Dotes on April 27th, 2009 11:28 am

    So… Is it beanstalk time?

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