Kumar, Nitin Intermolecular, Santa Clara, California.
McKinley, Gareth H. Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- Mechanical properties
- Mimicking spider silk
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
Spider silks are fine fibers produced from fibrous-protein solutions for use by spiders in the various functions required for their survival. Spiders are the only animals that use silk for a variety of functions in their daily lives, including reproduction, food capture, and construction. Silk fibers produced by silkworms to build their cocoons have been used in the textile industry for more than 5000 years. But in recent years, spider silk, particularly silk from the major ampullate glands used to make elaborate “orb” webs, has attracted the attention of scientists and engineers in many fields from evolutionary biology to mechanical engineering and material science. The exceptional toughness, stiffness, and extensibility of spider-silk fibers outperform even the best synthetic materials. With the recent and expected advances in molecular genetics and proteomics, as well as in the understanding of material properties in the nanoscale size range, orb-web-weaving spiders are ideal organisms for studying the relationship among the physical properties of protein-based materials in terms of their function and evolution. See also: Araneae; Natural fiber; Silk
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