It is interesting to note that out of all the scary creatures out there in the world, most of us tend to be the most afraid of tiny eight-legged creatures called Spiders. Yeah, it makes sense that I am more afraid of the spider hanging down my ceiling than the bear growling somewhere in the woods. Since, the bear is not coming for me anytime soon, obviously.
Still, no matter how tiny a spider is, it is very scary and creepy. Feel me?
But, let’s put our fears aside for a minute and focus on how fascinating spiders actually are.
Uh, fascinating spiders, really? Maybe after reading this article, you’ll change your mind. For this article, we will just be focussing on a very powerful thing produced by the spiders, the spider silk.
Spider silk is really powerful. For thousands of years, humans have used this silk for creating various useful objects. Apparently, nothing that humans have created in all these years is as amazing as the spider silk. It has excellent strength, durability, and elasticity. It is one of the toughest objects in the world which is able to stretch up to 40% of its original length. It is extremely weightless too.
Another interesting fact is that one spider is capable of producing 2-8 different types of silk. These different silks have different purposes like capturing prey, adherence, defense etc. Spider Silk has various applications in medicine and construction.
But, nobody has been able to extract enough quantity of spider silk to even create the prototypes. But, recent advancements suggest certain techniques that might be able to produce genetically engineered spider-silk in large quantities. Here’s a list of interesting objects that can be created using spider silk:
1. Bulletproof Vest:
A prototype for this bulletproof vest was created in 2011. Scientists created this vest using layers of artificial spider-silk fibers grafted with the human epidermis. The resultant bulletproof vest was thrice as strong as the standard Kevlar vests.
2. Surgical Bandages:
Spider-silk can be used to create better bandages. Spider-silk contains Vitamin K which helps with blood clotting. It also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties which help in preventing infections. Ancient Greeks and Romans have used spider-silk before to create bandages that would stop bleeding and help recover faster.
3. Spider-silk used for scientific observations:
In the 17th Century, Spider-silk was used extensively for various scientific observations. Spider silk was used as crosshairs for telescopes and guns. The thin thread would not get into the way of the observation. These threads were also used as grids since they provided accurate measurements.
4. Ropes and Nets:
Spider silk is a versatile material. It is very strong and has high elasticity. It could be used to create better nets, ropes, parachutes and also biodegradable bottles.
5. Spider-silk Airbags:
Airbags are supposed to prevent injuries but that’s not always the case. A lot of automobile industries have shown interest in creating spider-silk airbags. Airbags created using spider silk will completely absorb the shock and will gently envelop your face like a spider web.
6. Artificial Tendons and Ligaments:
This can be a very important breakthrough for the medical industry. If there’s any severe tear in the ligaments, a surgery needs to be performed immediately. If spider silk proteins could be successfully spun into artificial ligaments, the surgery would become a lot easier.
7. Sutures for Eye Surgeries:
Silkworm silk and other threads are used as surgical sutures for most of the wounds. Spider-silk is way thinner and stronger and it could be used to stitch together wounds for eye and nerve surgeries.
8. To repair broken bones:
Healing broken bones is a very difficult task. Installing metal plates to fuse the bones is one way to go but at times, this metal can leach ions into other tissues. Sometimes, this would cause severe complications. Hence, scientists have crafted a strong and stiff composite using spider-silk. This bone-setting could be used to repair and fuse together load-bearing bones.
That’s not it, folks. There are various other objects that have been created and will be created using spider silk. In recent times, scientists have managed to engineer spider-silk proteins from genetically engineered goat’s milk. If this technique could be put to use, it might be able to revolutionize construction, medicine, engineering and who knows what.