What Makes Spider Silk Tougher Than Steel?

What Makes Spider Silk Tougher Than Steel?


What can spiders teach us? Aside from abject
fear. Hi spider men and women, Julian here for DNews.
There’s a widely circulated factoid that claims spider silk is 5 times stronger than
steel, which is true, in a way. There are a lot of different spider silks and a lot
of different grades of steels. Some of the strongest silk can withstand over 1 GPa of
tugging before it snaps. By comparison a steel wire the same thickness can have a tensile
strength almost twice as high, but when you consider that spider silk is much lighter
than steel, then, yes, it can have about 5 times the tensile strength of steel by density.
Not as pithy as the factoid, but more accurate. The area where spider silk really beats steel
is toughness. Spider silk is extremely ductile, meaning it can really stretch out. That, combined
with the amount of force needed to break it when it won’t stretch anymore means it can
absorb 3x as much energy as kevlar before breaking, which explains why Cap couldn’t
get his hands free. Obviously if we could replicate spider silk synthetically it could
have a lot of applications, but we’re still untangling its secrets. (See what I did there?) There have been a few mechanisms that scientists
believe contribute to the silk’s ductility. In 2012 Dr Markus Buehler of MIT reported
to the journal Nature that he had found four stages the silk underwent as it stretched.
First the thread is pulled tight, then the proteins themselves start to unfold, the thread
then stiffens, and finally when it starts breaking, it does so a little bit at a time.
When the hydrogen bonds holding the proteins together break, some of them immediately reform.
It does this repeatedly, with fewer bonds coming back together each time, until they
can’t reform anymore and the thread snaps. The protein stretching and hydrogen bond failsafes
are hard to replicate in a cost effective way. Multiple attempts have failed, including
one that used genetically modified goats that made a protein in their milk that could be
spun into spider silk. But scientists have recently made a discovery about spider silk
that makes it’s stretchiness more replicable with the materials we already have. Scientists at the University of Oxford and
the Université Pierre et Marie Curie noticed that the orb spider’s silk is always taught.
Bend it, shape it anyway you want it, as long as you tug it, it’s alright. Not only that,
but when it’s compressed it still stays taught. On closer examination they found thousands
of watery glue droplets along the strand, each a tenth of a millimeter across. The glue
is useful for trapping prey, but on top of that it helps give the thread its elasticity.
When the the filament shortened, these droplets would reel in the slack. When pulled on, they
would spool it out again. The silk could be elongated and shortened as many times as the
researchers liked and it would still behave just the same. With that model in mind, the scientists placed
a droplet of oil on a plastic filament and viola, they made themselves a “liquid wire.”
It stretched out like a solid, but contracted like a liquid, making it a hybrid material.
Though the droplet was much bigger than the spider’s glue and the plastic was much simpler,
they still managed to mimic some spider silk properties, and they didn’t have to use
a single spider goat to do it. The researchers are optimistic their discovery can be used
when microfabricating complex structures, reversible micromotors, or other tiny systems
that need to be able to stretch and retract themselves. If you want more DNews, you’re not alone.
So, with that in mind we launched a brand new website: Seeker.com. There, you can find
all of DNews’ over 2400 episodes, plus original articles, photos, and more great videos about
science, the world, politics, and even adventure and exploration. Click the link in the description
to check it out, and if you like it, help us spread the word! It’s brand new! Thanks. If you love science as much as we all do here
at DNews, make sure to check out the new shows on DirecTV Mobile to get even more science.
Click the link in the description below to subscribe!” Spider webs are fascinating. Spider sex is
terrifying. To learn why and get a song stuck in your head all day, check out Trace’s
video here. Is learning how to mimic a spider web’s
ability to stretch worth the utter horror you experience every time you walk through
one in the dark?

100 Comments

  • smartybun smartybun

    May 26, 2016

    hi

    Reply
  • Bergonath

    May 26, 2016

    Your glasses are just… just beautiful, man.

    Reply
  • eukaryotic 070

    May 26, 2016

    tHEM EARS

    Reply
  • Derek Simmons

    May 26, 2016

    thx 4 that captain america spoiler. unsubbed

    Reply
  • Yuven

    May 26, 2016

    when I was a little girl; I had a fear of spiders!

    Reply
  • Sisrace

    May 26, 2016

    And now discovery announces annother channel/website or whatever. Because 100000000 wasn't enough

    Reply
  • Sam lee

    May 26, 2016

    Stronger then steel? I break it so easy lol

    Reply
  • gregistopal

    May 26, 2016

    Spider silk bullet proof vests?

    Reply
  • gregistopal

    May 26, 2016

    buler buler… buler… buler…

    Reply
  • naythan x

    May 26, 2016

    I like him , but Julia?

    Reply
  • cutingirl

    May 26, 2016

    I kept saying "whoa, WHOA!" during this video. He is so punny! I can't help it, I love puns.

    Reply
  • icePANDORA

    May 26, 2016

    the fact ill never touch a spider web makes it immortal

    Reply
  • redavs

    May 26, 2016

    couldn't actually watch this… too squeamish so I just listened to the audio…

    Reply
  • Siim K

    May 26, 2016

    Early I see 99 comments

    Reply
  • Joe Nome

    May 26, 2016

    ... .. -.- . / .. ... / -.– — ..- / .. .- . / .. . .- .. / – — .. … . / -.. — -.. . .-.-.-

    Reply
  • Siim K

    May 26, 2016

    This is a pointless comment

    Reply
  • Infinityking

    May 26, 2016

    still a good chance to become spiderman

    Reply
  • niggablaster

    May 26, 2016

    you look like Beast from X-Men before he became big and blue

    Reply
  • Ethan Wagner

    May 26, 2016

    What percent of spider-goat's milk is silk?

    Reply
  • The Hidden Paw

    May 26, 2016

    Captain America pulled a security door open in the first Avengers. A thick steel door with, more than likely, several steel bolts at least 1 to 2 inches in diameter. He did this with ease and, also, withstood punches and kicks from Loki who was shot with an advanced energy weapon that threw him through a solid steel wall, at least half an inch thick. He got off the ground and dusted himself off with no injury, whatsoever. If Captain America can withstand these things, I think he'd have no issues breaking Spidermans webbing. And if his skin, and bones, and tendons can withstand pulling open such a security door, without any harm, in reality, he'd most likely be able to punch a hole into steel, and most certainly dent it, depending on thickness.

    Reply
  • St

    May 26, 2016

    That #civilwar reference

    Reply
  • Valeri Morozov

    May 26, 2016

    Umm, your subtitles kinda got messed up in the end…

    Was that a deleted part of the script?

    Reply
  • Jordan Steel

    May 26, 2016

    Jet fuel can't melt spider webs

    Reply
  • s4ujcd

    May 26, 2016

    Mutant spider goats?!BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  • Emir Sandoval

    May 26, 2016

    i can shot some… from my penis.

    Reply
  • TalesRC

    May 26, 2016

    That guy is a multitasking legend! He looks at the camera and reads the script at the same time…or maybe he is cross-eyed

    Reply
  • Brayden Razavi

    May 26, 2016

    sorry that you guys are losing views, at least subs are increasing

    Reply
  • David Lewis

    May 26, 2016

    finally an interesting background tune, don't give the name 😛
    WHAT IS THE NAME OF THE MUSIC!

    Reply
  • Jesper Andersen

    May 26, 2016

    how much spida do i hav 2 web 2 get goat

    Reply
  • Ethan McDonald

    May 26, 2016

    Wow, so many jokes could be made about the periodic table, and you chose Thorium.

    Reply
  • iTrickz

    May 26, 2016

    Your ears…..

    Reply
  • Potato Pal

    May 26, 2016

    Too bad the Twin Towers didn't have silk beams 🙁

    Reply
  • William

    May 26, 2016

    "PUT THE CHROMOSOMES IN THE BAG" headass

    Reply
  • XiXi Gonzales

    May 26, 2016

    this is cool I like this channel because of how interesting it is 🙂

    Reply
  • Primalxbeast

    May 26, 2016

    When I see Julian, I always know is going to be a very informative video.

    Reply
  • UtopiaV1

    May 26, 2016

    2:02 "As long as you tug it, it's alright…"

    I'm gonna take that as a green light for some 'private time', thanks Julian!

    Reply
  • Sebastian

    May 26, 2016

    Burn the video

    Reply
  • Shawn Wilson

    May 26, 2016

    I didn't know about the proteins rebonding cool! I did know about the glue on the spider silk making stretchy and strong.
    Tranchulas venom is interesting last I looked into it 5 years a go, it has medical benefits.

    Reply
  • RoScFan

    May 26, 2016

    the goat thing failed?????? how?

    Reply
  • Matt Merrill

    May 27, 2016

    Go away with the seeker, I miss testtube.

    Reply
  • Chewy Candy

    May 27, 2016

    My goat produced milk.
    sells goat milk

    Turned into silk and suffocated my customers.

    Reply
  • Ken’s Musings

    May 27, 2016

    Julian is so cute.

    Reply
  • Gavin the gamerbloger gray

    May 27, 2016

    let's make robot with spider silk

    Reply
  • Mandy Eng

    May 27, 2016

    "Why Donald Trump is haunting my dreams".
    ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°

    Reply
  • Matthew Kost

    May 27, 2016

    #GIVEPEWDSHISDIAMOMDPLAYBUTTON

    Reply
  • Nissan Karki

    May 27, 2016

    THEY SHOW SPIDERS!! DONOT WATCH BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP.

    Reply
  • BOX FOX

    May 27, 2016

    #givepewdshisdiamondplaybutton

    Reply
  • RJTheHero

    May 27, 2016

    And to think spiders use this amazing compound to catch bugs.
    Stronger than steel. Used to catch flies. 😕

    Reply
  • Thomas Richardson

    May 27, 2016

    i'm so glad you guys are doing well enough to start your own website, despite the comments sections being mostly cancer. I think you're awesome!

    Reply
  • CJ4mPJ

    May 27, 2016

    I once wrestled with a anaconda for 4 days, but then I realized I was masturbating..O_o

    Reply
  • Farouk Aqil

    May 27, 2016

    I was watching spider man,when i checked today's Dnews

    Reply
  • Lucasones

    May 27, 2016

    The "music" noise on the background is annoying.. doesn't let you concentrate on the video properly.

    Reply
  • Poptropica Cheats

    May 27, 2016

    How?

    Reply
  • Dubstep. Assassin

    May 27, 2016

    Does this make Spider-Man a possibility?

    Reply
  • David Vavra

    May 27, 2016

    Dnews is great.
    Seeker sucks, too political with a left bias. Almost as bad as NPR.

    Reply
  • Demi Hall

    May 27, 2016

    Do screen dimmer apps reduce blue light

    Reply
  • Andrew Brazinski

    May 27, 2016

    Now we just need web shooters

    Reply
  • Jamal Wright

    May 27, 2016

    I saw this research on the science channel sometime ago, Awesome!

    Reply
  • Yusif Noori

    May 27, 2016

    Beular

    Reply
  • Sigbjørn H.E

    May 28, 2016

    Must be hard walking around with binoculars on your face.

    Reply
  • Lleone

    May 28, 2016

    its not Cap that got his hands in the webs, its iron man

    Reply
  • JacksLostThought

    May 28, 2016

    1:09 on repeat
    Bueller…Bueller……….Bueller

    Reply
  • AwesomeGuy

    May 28, 2016

    Am I the only that got the Civil War reference?

    Reply
  • Varun Aggarwal

    May 28, 2016

    i used this video as a remedy of my insomniac…

    Reply
  • Coras

    May 29, 2016

    Spiders are cool. It's just that when they are five feet or closer, I am overcome with mortal terror.

    Reply
  • HeartOfTheEarth009

    May 29, 2016

    I didn't follow a lot of what he said, but I trust this man. He has honest ears.

    Reply
  • KingChamp91

    May 29, 2016

    I wonder if he can hear a whisper from across the room..

    Reply
  • Artem Klimov

    May 29, 2016

    Goats with a spider genome.. what can be scarier? )

    Reply
  • Eric Gillespie

    May 29, 2016

    this guy is one of my favorites on dnews

    Reply
  • Natalia B

    May 30, 2016

    Was that a CA: civil war reference??!!!

    Reply
  • Lemon Point

    May 31, 2016

    "Which is why Cap couldn't get his hands free" omg

    Reply
  • ICG

    May 31, 2016

    I have some spiders living freely in my room = D

    They don't eat as much mosquitoes as I would have liked though … = (

    Reply
  • Clown Alan

    May 31, 2016

    Smarties watch DNews.Genius people Subscribe to DNews.

    Reply
  • Hernan Rico

    May 31, 2016

    Dem glasses thicc 😏

    Reply
  • valeria aguiñiga

    June 1, 2016

    The seeker app is only available in the US 🙁

    Reply
  • VeroMithril

    June 3, 2016

    Why I do have to watch a DN vid on a random laggy website?

    Reply
  • Ace The Great

    June 10, 2016

    I got that captain America joke 😃

    Reply
  • Landon Thomas

    June 10, 2016

    I still fucking hate spiders.

    Reply
  • Bruce Liu

    June 26, 2016

    I wonder if the spider vibrates when making the silk.

    Reply
  • EYEoftheneedle

    January 1, 2017

    You are cute 😊😚

    Reply
  • Martin Hedington

    January 11, 2017

    2017 Update: http://newatlas.com/artificial-spider-silk-slu/47310/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=8ae0aa83f7-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-8ae0aa83f7-91262245

    Reply
  • Felix Negron

    March 29, 2017

    I like that Captain America Civil War reference

    Reply
  • Haruspex

    April 3, 2017

    CRISPR

    Reply
  • The Middle Man

    August 5, 2017

    Talk about Jewish genes gone wrong. Lmao.

    Reply
  • Batman Slaps

    October 5, 2017

    Ears on fleek bro

    Reply
  • Uchiha Itachi

    October 19, 2017

    Darwin's bark spider's web is 10x stronger then kevlar. That's so amazing, how such small spider can make such strong web.

    Reply
  • ̪E͇z̞̖e̥̪k̥i͇̠e̪l

    December 11, 2017

    When you hit random on character creation menu….

    Reply
  • K. Ganesan Ganesan

    December 17, 2017

    Future technology for nano materials.

    Reply
  • xTheeCaveman x

    January 30, 2018

    Tougher than STEEL? WHAT!

    Reply
  • Java Guy

    March 9, 2018

    You lost me when you called an academic a doctor you stupid idiot.
    Doctors are MD only moron!

    Reply
  • hi hi

    March 14, 2018

    Alright so now I know if I get shot at then in gonna 1n a corner full of spider webs

    Reply
  • Pham Minh

    March 27, 2018

    Was that: "Not only that, but when it's compressed, it still stays THOT"

    Reply
  • FonzieTV

    May 13, 2018

    we need to get all these spider silk then make a supersuit

    Reply
  • Na Mo

    September 24, 2018

    Human sex is terrifying it just takes longer

    Reply
  • Mike M

    September 27, 2018

    it would be perfect to have this channel in Portuguese

    Reply
  • Alan Nateras

    October 17, 2018

    Where did you acquire that beautiful shirt? Thanks

    Reply
  • Iron Spider 4x4

    November 14, 2018

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahaahahahahahhaahhaahhaahahahahahahahahahhaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahhaahhaahahhaahahhahahaahahahahah

    Reply
  • Izuki 101

    December 14, 2018

    2:34 So THIS is why you renamed you guys' channel Seeker

    Reply
  • Ed SR

    May 12, 2019

    I have a severe case of diagnosed arachnophobia.

    Reply
  • Enrique Xavier Isip

    September 23, 2019

    We found the new vibranium

    Reply

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