Silk fibers have a strength comparable to steel. How can that be?
ScienceDaily (Mar. 2, 2011) — Scientists now have a better understanding of why spider silk fibers are so incredibly strong. Recent research, published on February 15th in Biophysical Journal, describes the architecture of silk fibers from the atomic level up and reveals new information about the molecular structure that underlies the amazing mechanical characteristics of this fascinating natural material.
Spiders spin silk, which is remarkably strong and stretchy, to use in webs and to suspend themselves. "Silk fibers exhibit astonishing mechanical properties. They have an ultimate strength comparable to steel, toughness greater than Kevlar and a density less than cotton or nylon," explains senior study author Dr. Frauke Gräter from the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies in Germany. "Because silk fibers continue to outperform their artificial counterparts in terms of toughness, many studies have tried to understand the mechanical characteristics of these extraordinary natural fibers." Read more here.