Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Silk Structure Analysis Could Lead to Even Stronger Synthetic Materials

This article, titled, "Silk Structure Analysis Explains Paradox of Super-Strength; Could Lead to Even Stronger Synthetic Materials" discusses an aspect of research into materials science. In our quest to find new materials, it is interesting to find that nature often far exceeds our intellectual abilities.

For this project you are to read the article and write a paragraph about it. Paragraphs should be at least three well constructed sentences.

Next you should find another article about one of the following:
1. Other discoveries of materials in nature that we have found useful.
2. Ways we have imitated nature to develop materials.
3. Totally new materials we have made and their uses.
4. Polymers and/or polymer manufacture. (Silk is an organic polymer)

Finally link to that article and write a well constructed 3 sentence paragraph about your article.

Make sure you put your ID and class section on your work. This project is due by midnight Sunday, 4/3. Remember that you need to do either this or the next project. If you do both projects one will count for extra credit.

Spelling counts. Please do your project in a word processor and then cut and paste it into the comment box. Sloppy work really doesn't save you time, and it there are glaring spelling errors you will lose credit.

If you have problems, email me at aphsbio at gmail.com. Please tell me exactly what your problem was including any error messages.


  1. Yesterday, Scientists at MIT found out the properties of silk and how silk can fail under pressure. Silk, a strong material that spiders use to make their webs, is made from weak material and through an unusual arrangement of atoms has the ability to stretch without breaking. Silks are made from mostly proteins and contains hydrogen bonds which are weaker then most bonds found in materials made by living creatures which are usually covalent. Research shows that if the nanocrystals which make up the silk are less than 5 nanometers they are found to be extremely strong and can bend easily but if they end up more than 5 nanometers they become weak and brittle.

    Bee silk is the new silk...

    Scientists at CSIRO Entomology in Australia have been looking for other silks made by insects other than spiders and worms and hade stumbled upon that a stronger, more flexible silk made by bees and ants. Unlike spider and worm silks, bee and ant silks consist of "multiple helices wind around each other". The Australian scientists have already mapped the genes responsible for creating silk in bees and ants.


  2. In recent studies at MIT researchers have been testing silk. Silk are made from proteins, including some that form thin, planar crystals called beta-sheets that are connected with hydrogen bonds, which are the weakest type of bond. If the beta-sheet crystals exceed 5 nanometers the silk becomes weak and brittle, but if less then that it is very strong and ductile. Computer models of silk helped the researchers determine its molecular and atomic mechanics.

    Click Here

    Researchers have recently been studying a self-healing polymer that could prolong the live time of engine oils and make the engine more efficient. Polymers in the engine control physical properties of the oil but the stress can break them down easily. The new designed polymer can heal its self and increase the life time of the oil.


  3. The article explains how silks are some of the strongest and least brittle substances in the world. Scientists are now discovering ways to make synthetic materials that are as strong or even stronger than the natural silks. Silks are made of proteins that are connected to eachother through hydrogen bonds, which are usually quite weak. Silks are still very strong and not brittle which goes against common wisdom. The silks are connected with beta sheet crystals that are like a stack of pancakes. These sheets work together to make the bonds strong.Long term research of silks and their properties will help make inexpensive, strong materials.

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    Biologists have recently discovered the genes and determined the DNA sequences for the key proteins in the silk of the black widow spider. This advance could help develop a variety of new materials for industrial,medical,and military uses. The silk made by black widow spiders is even stronger than the silks made by other spiders. The lightweight properties and strength could be used in body armor or high tech athletic gear. The special silk is called "Dragline" silk. Black widow spiders are the only kind of spider that make this super strong silk.

    Jimmy Sullivan Block 3

  4. Spider silk is stronger than steel. Scientists at MIT used computers to imitate this silk, not just its appearance but how it moves too. They used these computers to find out the mechanicals of this silk. The silk is made from weak atomic bonds. This also shows that even though hydrogen bonds are weak they are actually very strong.

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    Larvae from a western fly fisherman is believed to maybe one day be used as a bioadhesive. It can easily stick to wet tissue. IT may be able to be used inside of the body during surgeries. The difference between wet silk and dry silk is that the wet silk is synthesized.


  5. It is amazing that silk is compared to be as strong as steel, or in fact stronger. There have been secrets unrevealed that show how silk can exceed its natural strength and abilities. The strength is cause by an unusual arrangement of atomic bonds. These bonds are inherently very weak yet someone figured out how to increase the strength of the bonds. When the crystal size is about 3 nanometers the material loses its brittle characteristic and becomes ultra strong.


    Before scientists and researchers develop new projects they usually try and imitate models of living things like their systems and designs. This approach is called biometrics which is a seek to imitate living things. It has been applied in the world of technology in many ways. The term of "bio-mimicry" is that we have so much to learn from the natural world. That we need help in order to do so.


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  7. The article talks about how the analysis of silk structures explains its super-strength and how this knowledge could lead to the production of even stronger synthetic materials. The article talks about the characteristics of silk and how we the people could create something stronger. Also it talks about the process the scientists went through in order to determine the characterizes of silk and what makes silk so strong. The article says that silk is made of proteins that have hydrogen bonds that connect them. The research of silks will hopefully make cheap but still strong materials.

    Click Here

    The article talks about how two ORNL facilities tried to develop synthetic cell membranes. Researchers have been trying to imitate the molecular activity that occurs at cell membranes. Scientists have been trying to utilize the capabilities of the Spallation Neutron Source to create a biocompatible synthetic cell membrane. The scientists believe that this will help them to understand various interactions between synthetic materials and bio molecules. The ability to do this will also open a wide range of possibilities for developing future materials, devices, and processes.