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Spider webs made of graphene

Spider silk has fascinating mechanical properties that have attracted the attention of a team of researchers. This team has combined this wonder of nature with graphene, the strongest material that exists today, opening the way to a new class of bionic compounds.

Spider silk combines a high breaking stress ~ 1.5 GPa with a high tenacity ~ 150 J g-1. In order to discover what would happen to these values in the event that some spiders ingested graphene, researchers endowed with European Union funding through the GRAPHENE Flagship Initiative sprayed graphene and carbon nanotube solutions (NTC) at the sites in that the spiders were confined.

Recently, the team presented its research in a document entitled Spider silk reinforced by graphene or carbon nanotubes, published in the online magazine 2D Materials ™. Once the solutions were ingested and after extracting the silk from the spiders, it was discovered that graphene and nanotubes had become part of the silk. The team observed an improvement in their mechanical properties with respect to the original silk, reaching a breaking stress of up to ~ 5.4 GPa and a tenacity of ~ 1570 J g-1.

Professor Nicola Pugno of the University of Trento (Italy), responsible for directing the research, said that the strength of the improved silk was comparable to that of the teeth of a limpet or that of the most resistant carbon fibers. “It is still early, but the results represent a proof of concept that paves the way to use the spinning process of spiders, natural and efficient, in order to create reinforced bionic silk fibers, thus optimizing one of the materials of great most promising resistance. ” In addition to their enormous strength, these fibers are biodegradable, which offers new applications for textiles such as medical uniforms.

The research was supported by a series of projects, with contributions from the initiatives REPLICA2 (Large-area replication of biological anti-adhesive nanosurfaces), KNOTOUGH (Super-tough knotted fibers) and BIHSNAM (Bio-inspired Hierarchical Super Nanomaterials). Graphene is an innovative field of great interest and the emblematic GRAPHENE Initiative of the EU represents a key platform to promote advances in this new domain.

Andrea Ferrari, director of the Graphene Center of the University of Cambridge, director of Science and Technology of the emblematic GRAPHENE Initiative and chairman of its management committee said in Science Daily that: “the interaction between graphene, materials associated with it and various Biomaterials are key to increasing their potential applications.This is one of the numerous examples that reveal the possibilities in this field.The work done can help to design novel compounds with improved properties inspired by nature “.

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