Synthetic Spider Silk is Super-strong
Spider silk of fantastical, superhero strength is finally speeding toward commercial reality — at least a synthetic version of it is. The material, which is five times stronger than steel, could be used in products from bulletproof vests to medical implants, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN).
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/03/synthetic-spider-silk-super-strong
Creature had Spider-Like Brain 520 M Years Ago
A team of researchers led by Univ. of Arizona Regents’ Prof. Nick Strausfeld and London Natural History Museum’s Greg Edgecombe has discovered the earliest known complete nervous system, exquisitely preserved in the fossilized remains of a never-before described creature that crawled or swam in the ocean 520 million years ago.
The find suggests that the ancestors of chelicerates – spiders, scorpions and their kin – branched off from the family tree of other arthropods – including insects, crustaceans and millipedes – more than half a billion years ago.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/10/creature-had-spider-brain-520-m-years-ago
Spider Webs Reach Out to Snare Electrically Charged Insects
Flapping insects build up an electrical charge that may make them more easily snared by spider webs, according to a new study by Univ. of California, Berkeley, biologists.
The positive charge on an insect such as a bee or fly attracts the web, which is normally negatively or neutrally charged, increasing the chances that an insect flying by will contact and stick to the web, says UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow Victor Ortega-Jimenez.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/07/spider-webs-reach-out-snare-electrically-charged-insects
Silk is Better than Kevlar
At seven times the toughness of Kevlar, a silk produced by the Caerostris darwini spider of Madagascar is more robust than any other material — synthetic or natural. Most spider silks are about two times tougher than Kevlar, and have long been considered an intriguing alternative for bulletproof vests and other protective gear. There’s only one problem: producing spider silk on demand is a tricky task.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/05/silk-better-kevlar
Physicists Say Spiderman’s Webbing Could Stop a Train
Univ. of Leicester physics students calculated that the strength of Spiderman’s webbing is proportional to that of real spiders.
In Spiderman 2, the superhero uses his webbing to bring a runaway train to a standstill moments before it plummets over the end of the track. But could a material with the strength and toughness of spiders’ web really stop four crowded subway cars? According to Univ. of Leicester physics students, the answer is yes.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/02/physicists-say-spiderman%E2%80%99s-webbing-could-stop-train
'Spider Skin' Captures Grand Prize in Image Contest
FEI is proud to announce that María Carbajo of the Electron Microscopy Unit in the Research Support Services of the Univ. of Extremadura has been awarded the grand prize in the 2012 FEI Owner Image Contest for her entry “Spider Skin.”
FEI.com visitors were asked to vote for their favorite image among the monthly winners. A total of nearly 1,000 votes were received and María Carbajo’s image, Spider Skin, narrowly beat out other worthy images.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/02/spider-skin-captures-grand-prize-image-contest
Researchers Measure Elasticity of Intact Spider Web
For the first time, researchers have measured all of the elastic properties of an intact spider’s web, drawing a remarkable picture of the behavior of one of nature’s most intriguing structures. The work could lead to new “bio-inspired” materials that improve upon nature.
As fibers go, there’s never been anything quite like spider silk. Stretch it. Bend it. Soak it. Dry it out. Spider silk holds up. It is five times stronger than steel and can expand nearly a third greater than its original length and snap right back like new. Ounce-for-ounce spider silk is even stronger than Kevlar, the man-made fiber used in bulletproof vests.
It would be understandable to think that science knows all there is to know about the remarkable physics of spider silk, but the truth is far from that. Now, using a long-known-but-underutilized spectroscopy technique, a Stanford researcher has shed new light on the mysteries of spider silk.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/02/researchers-measure-elasticity-intact-spider-web
Spider Silk Can Be Used for Biosensors, Lasers, Microchips
Spiders use their silk to catch lunch. Now physicists are using it to catch light. New research shows that natural silk could be an eco-friendly alternative to more traditional ways of manipulating light, such as through glass or plastic fiber optic cables. Two teams independently exploring possible applications for the material’s photonic talents will present their latest breakthroughs at the Optical Society’s (OSA) Annual Meeting, Frontiers in Optics (FiO) 2012.
Biomedical engineer Fiorenzo Omenetto of Tufts Univ. in Boston will discuss his group’s work fabricating concoctions of proteins that make use of silk’s optical properties for implantable sensors and other biology-technology interfaces.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2012/10/spider-silk-can-be-used-biosensors-lasers-microchips
Spiders Inspire Search for Multi-Purpose Glue
While the common house spider may be creepy, it also has been inspiring researchers to find new and better ways to develop adhesives for human applications, such as wound healing and industrial-strength tape. Think about an adhesive suture strong enough to heal a fractured shoulder and that same adhesive designed with a light tackiness ideal for “ouch-free” bandages.
Univ. of Akron polymer scientists and biologists have discovered that this house spider — in order to more efficiently capture different types of prey — performs an uncommon feat. It tailors one glue to demonstrate two adhesive strengths: firm and weak. Released by Nature Communications, a study by the UA scientists shows that cobweb spiders use adhesive discs to anchor webs to ceilings, walls and various other surfaces. While they use the same glue on all surfaces, they create it using two different designs to give it a strong or weak grip, depending on whether its prey is flying or crawling on the ground.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2012/10/spiders-inspire-search-multi-purpose-glue
Forgotten Wasp Hunts Australia’s Most Dangerous Spider
Univ. of Adelaide researchers say a small native wasp that scientists had forgotten about for more than 200 years is now making a name for itself — as a predator of Australia’s most common dangerous spider, the redback. The wasp (Agenioideus nigricornis) was first described scientifically in 1775 by Danish entomologist Johan Christian Fabricius, thanks to samples collected in Australia during Captain Cook’s first great voyage (1768-1771).
"Since then, scientists have largely forgotten about the wasp," says Prof. Andy Austin from the Univ. of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology & Biodiversity. "It is widespread across Australia and can be found in a number of collections, but until now we haven’t known the importance of this particular species."
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2012/09/forgotten-wasp-hunts-australias-most-dangerous-spider
Bacteria Can Produce Spider Silk
A new video article in JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, demonstrates procedures to harvest and process synthetic spider silk from bacteria. The procedure presented in the video article revolutionizes the spider silk purification process by standardizing a key step known as “post-spin.” In this step, silk molecules are stretched by a mechanical actuator to increase fiber strength. These mechanical improvements produce uniform spider silk and remove human error from the spinning process. As a result, the synthetic silk is much closer to the natural fibers produced by the female black widow spider than what was previously possible, and the procedure provides a scalable ground work to utilize spider silk in material manufacturing.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news-Bacteria-Can-Produce-Spider-Silk-072812.aspx
Less Toxic Brown Widow Spider Can Displace Black Widow
Brown widow spiders are relatively new to North America, where they were first documented in Florida in 1935, and even newer to southern California, where they were only recently discovered in 2003. However, in the last decade they have been so successful that they may be displacing native black widow spiders. If so, the overall danger to homeowners may decrease because brown widow spider bites are less toxic than those of native western black widow spiders.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news-Less-Toxic-Brown-Widow-Spider-Can-Displace-Black-Widow-070512.aspx?xmlmenuid=51
Design, Composition Make Spiders’ Fangs Dangerous
Among the factors that make spiders successful predators is the ingeniously composed and structured material of their fangs.
Although their armor consists of the same material as their predator’s fangs, flies, grasshoppers and other insects that are the usual prey of spiders have little to offer by way of defense against the spider’s bite. As researchers of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Halle and the Univ. of Vienna have discovered, the chitin fibers in the fangs of a large Central American wandering spider are arranged and surrounded with proteins in a way that makes the material particularly rigid and thus capable of penetrating its prey’s cuticular armor. Thanks to the composition and structure of their materials, the fangs become optimized and reusable hypodermic needles for injecting prey with paralyzing venom. The new insights into this biological material could provide inspiration for the optimization of similar technical materials and devices.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news-Design-Composition-Make-Spiders-Fangs-Dangerous-051112.aspx
X-Rays Reveal More Intricate Spider Webs
Spiders weave a web even more tangled than originally thought – at least on the nanoscale level, according to a new study performed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.
Using high-energy X-rays provided by Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS), scientists peered into the structure of orb spiders’ dragline silk. This is the chief thread that allows them to dangle precipitously off branches and window frames. “Spider silk has a unique combination of mechanical strength and elasticity that make it one of the toughest materials we know,” says Prof. Jeffery Yarger of Arizona State Univ., one of the lead researchers of the study.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news-Researchers-Use-X-Rays-to-Explore-Spider-Webs-050312.aspx