Spider silk is one of nature’s strongest materials. It also has a high damping capacity, which allows the threads to absorb large amounts of energy, similar to a bungee cord. For years, scientists have been trying to create a synthetic spider silk that is as strong and elastic as the real thing. In 2017, researchers at the University of Cambridge came up with the closest imitation yet, a stretchy material with super-strong fibers. Even more astounding is the fact that the material is composed of 98% water. They’re hoping that this new material can be used in textiles and energy-absorbing applications such as bulletproof vests and helmets.
One tough little fiber:
- The fibers are spun from a soupy mixture called a hydrogel. The remaining 2 percent of the concoction is silica and cellulose, which are both natural materials.
- The fibers are pulled from the hydrogel in extremely thin threads, a few millionths of a meter in diameter. After about 30 seconds, the water evaporates -- leaving a super-stretchy fiber that’s stronger than steel and tougher than Kevlar.
- The results of the research appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.