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Being able to produce artificial spider silk has long been a dream of many scientists, but all attempts have until now involved harsh chemicals and have resulted in fibers of limited use. Now, a team of researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Karolinska Institutet has, step by step, developed a method that works…
Spider silk is made of proteins that are stored as an aqueous solution in the [spider’s] silk glands, before being spun into a fiber.
A biomimetic spinning process (that mimics nature) is probably the best way to manufacture fibers that resemble real spider silk. Until now, this has not been possible because of difficulties to obtain water soluble spider silk proteins from bacteria and other production systems, and therefore strong solvents has (sic) been used in previously described spinning processes.
[The scientific teams] have previously shown that there is an impressive pH gradient in the spider silk gland, and that this well-regulated pH gradient affects specific parts of the spider silk proteins and ensures that the fiber forms rapidly in a defined place of the silk production apparatus.
This knowledge has now been used to design an artificial spider silk protein that can be produced in large quantities in bacteria…
To mimic the spider silk gland, the research team constructed a simple but very efficient and biomimetic spinning apparatus in which they can spin kilometer-long fibers only by lowering the pH.
In the future this may allow industrial production of artificial spider silk for biomaterial applications or for the manufacture of advanced textiles," says Anna Rising
A frequent mistake made in the mainstream media is to confuse strength and toughness, when comparing silk to other materials. As shown below in detail [graph], weight for weight, silk is stronger than steel, but not as strong as Kevlar. Silk is, however, tougher than both.
For instance, due to its strength and elasticity, spider silk fiber could have several medical uses, such as for making artificial ligaments and tendons, for eye sutures, and for jaw repair. The silk could also have applications in bulletproof vests and improved car airbags.
originally posted by: TEOTWAWKIAIFF
Typically, if I find one inside (and I do the same with bees), I will use a piece of paper to gather them up and release back to the free range life!