Often times the mere site of an eight legged arachnid--commonly known as a spider--evokes a not so pleasant feeling. But scientists are finding innovative ways to use the silk spiders spin to benefit humans. Who knew that spider silk has more tensile strength than steel and Kevlar? Or that it can stretch to 140 percent of its length without breaking? These unique characteristics of spider silk are explored in a new NOVA series called "Making Stuff: Stronger," which looks at innovative technologies and materials.
In the series, New York Times reporter David Pogue reports on how difficult it is to manufacture spider silk on a commercial scale. He visits the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where a breathtaking piece of gold tone fabric lays in a glass enclosure. The material is the largest-known textile and sample of spider silk in the world and it took more than a million spiders to create it.
Pogue's reporting also takes him to the University of Wyoming where biologists are so amazed with the properties of spider silk that they are looking for ways to mass produce the stuff, in hopes of revolutionizing the world of strong materials. They've identified the genes in spider DNA that make silk and have copied it into the DNA of goats.
To see what happens, check out the new NOVA series on PBS or click here to read more.
"Spider silk doesn't break. It's like pulling a strand of steel. It's beautiful, and it's super strong." --David Pogue
"It's very difficult, obviously, to do this on a commercial scale. And it took 1,063,000 spiders roughly to make." --Nicholas Godley, fashion designer, on how many spiders it took to create largest-known textile and sample of spider silk in the world.
1. Look around the room, what materials do you see? Where do those materials come from?
2. What is the strongest material in the world?
1. Why do you suppose it's so significant that spider silk is strong as steel and can hardly be broken?
2. How might the strength of spider silk be beneficial to humans?
3. What are some other examples of materials we use every day that come from animals or plants?