Secrets of Spider Silk’s Strength

Posted on March 27, 2008  Comments (1)

Secrets of Spider Silk’s Strength

The strength of a biological material like spider silk lies in the specific geometric configuration of structural proteins, which have small clusters of weak hydrogen bonds that work cooperatively to resist force and dissipate energy, researchers in Civil and Environmental Engineering have revealed.

This structure makes the lightweight natural material as strong as steel, even though the “glue” of hydrogen bonds that hold spider silk together at the molecular level is 100 to 1,000 times weaker than the powerful glue of steel’s metallic bonds or even Kevlar’s covalent bonds.

“Using only one or two hydrogen bonds in building a protein provides no or very little mechanical resistance, because the bonds are very weak and break almost without provocation,” said Buehler, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “But using three or four bonds leads to a resistance that actually exceeds that of many metals. Using more than four bonds leads to a much-reduced resistance. The strength is maximized at three or four bonds.”

Related:Why a spider hanging from a thread does not rotate60 Acre (24 hectare) Spider Web

One Response to “Secrets of Spider Silk’s Strength”

  1. Alice David
    April 29th, 2015 @ 6:09 am

    I liked your post and I wanna add that Sometimes we think that spider silk may be weak but it is so much stronger that it is more powerful then steel. It is also used for medicinal purpose.

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