MAY 29, 2016 7:55 AM PDT

Is Spider Silk Really Tougher Than Steel?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

All spiders produce silk, but not all silk are created equal. A single spider can produce as many as seven different types of silks, each with its own purpose, such as for prey capture, web construction, or alarm lines. As fragile as they seem, spider silk is actually a biological marvel as they are tough, flexible, and extremely stable.

Some researchers even claim that spider silk is tougher than steel. How so? Spider silk has high tensile strength - that is, the ability to absorb a lot of stress before breaking. For one variety of spider silk, the tensile strength is about 1 Gpa, a unit of measuring force per unit area. By comparison, the tensile strength of steel ranges from 0.2 Gpa to 2 Gpa.

The remarkable mechanical properties of silk make this material highly versatile but extremely difficult to replicate in synthetic form. Scientists know the proteins that make up silk, but they've yet to rearrange it in the same way as spiders.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 18, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Closest Ever Images of the Sun Expose Previously Unknown Features
JUL 18, 2020
Closest Ever Images of the Sun Expose Previously Unknown Features
New images from the Solar Orbiter, a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) that launched in Feb ...
JUL 23, 2020
Health & Medicine
Study Reveals Racial Disparities in Children's Postsurgical Outcomes
JUL 23, 2020
Study Reveals Racial Disparities in Children's Postsurgical Outcomes
A study published this week in Pediatrics revealed racial disparities in postsurgical mortality and complicati ...
JUL 31, 2020
Space & Astronomy
How Many Missions to Mars Have Been Successful?
JUL 31, 2020
How Many Missions to Mars Have Been Successful?
It’s commonly said that roughly half of all missions to Mars have succeeded- while roughly half have failed. But a ...
AUG 20, 2020
Health & Medicine
Studying the World's Deadliest Animal
AUG 20, 2020
Studying the World's Deadliest Animal
Imagine hundreds of mosquitoes feeding on your arm for the sake of research! This is one unique aspect fueling the work ...
AUG 27, 2020
Plants & Animals
Polar Bear Populations Could Collapse by 2100
AUG 27, 2020
Polar Bear Populations Could Collapse by 2100
A new study reports that polar bear populations could collapse in the next 80 years if greenhouse gas emissions remain a ...
NOV 12, 2020
Plants & Animals
Noise Pollution Threatens Norway's Orcas
NOV 12, 2020
Noise Pollution Threatens Norway's Orcas
Orca pods heavily depend on vocal communication for survival. Their unique ability to communicate with other pod members ...
Loading Comments...