Spiders are good for more than keeping insect populations in check and giving us all the creeps. A team of researchers at Florida State University has found a way to conduct electricity with spider silk. This advancement could bring spider silk wiring to the gadgets of the future.
Spider silk has been of intense research interest for years due to its incredible properties. It is stronger than steel at the same thickness, and more impact resistant than kevlar. One of the few things spider silk isn’t naturally good for is conducting electricity. The researchers may have solved that using one of our favorite materials — carbon nanotubes. The silk was coated with the tiny straws of carbon atoms, which allowed the silk to carry a charge.
The silk was gathered from a golden silk orb-weaver spider (Nephila clavipes), which is found throughout the southern US. This species is famous for producing very long strands of silk that are easy to collect. After being treated with carbon nanotubes, the silk was not only conductive, it was 300 times stronger.
This super durable spider silk was used to create a proof-of-concept device to measure a person’s heart rate, thus proving that is was conductive. Even though these strands of silk were incredibly resilient, they are believed to be biodegradable.
There are a few barriers between this experiment and conductive spider silk wiring. The silk can still stretch along its length, which affects the conductivity. Additionally, it’s expensive to produce, and the long term effects of exposure to carbon nanotubes is not fully understood. maybe someday, though.
[Image credit: ‘SandFlash]