Spider silk has many fascinating mechanical properties which have attracted researchers’ attention. Now a team has matched one of nature’s wonders with graphene, currently the world’s strongest material, thereby opening the door to a new class of bionic composites.
Spider silk provides a combination of great strength ~1.5?GPa and toughness ~150 J g?1. To explore what would happen to those measurements if the spiders ingested graphene, researchers, supported by the EU-funded GRAPHENE FLAGSHIP, sprayed solutions of graphene and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) around the enclosures in which the spiders were kept.
The team set out their research recently in a letter titled ‘Spider silk reinforced by graphene or carbon nanotubes’, published in the online journal ‘2D Materials’™ . The solutions were ingested by the spiders and when the silk was then harvested it was found that the graphene and nanotubes had made their way into the silk. The team observed an increment of the mechanical properties with respect to pristine silk, up to a fracture strength ~5.4?GPa and a toughness measurement of ~1570 J g?1.
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