Recently, scientist learned that spiders silk—which was long thought of as the world’s strongest natural material—is actually not as tough as another natural component found on a small invertebrate. The teeth of small mollusks known as limpets actually overtook spider silk’s record as the strongest material in all of the biological world. But, the limpets may not want to get to used to their new title; already the spider has made a comeback with a little help from another ultra strong material: graphene.
Silky And Strong
How do you infuse two of the world’s strongest materials into one fiber? Researchers sprayed a group of spiders with a solution of water, carbon nanotubes, and graphene. The resulting silk the spiders produced was stronger than Kevlar and is believed to be comparable to the ultra strong limpet teeth. By just how much is yet to be determined. How the spiders managed to incorporate the nanotube and graphene mixture into their silk is also currently unknown, but discoveries like these are expected to have a big impact on materials developed for a number of industries, including defense, aerospace, and electronics.
Impressive Improvements And Innovations
Both spiders and limpets could contribute to material developments that not only improve technology we have, but also create whole new capabilities, equipment, and products. Printable armor, paper-thin bulletproof windows, and hair-thin threads that could tow impressive weights are just a few potential innovations.
Remarkable Developments In Allotropes
Spiders and limpets aren’t the only sources of ultra strong materials. Researchers are discovering some amazing properties with carbon-based materials that include graphene, as well as a whole new allotrope called carbyne, Carbyne is a monodimensional chain of carbon atoms that’s three times more ridged than diamond and just as strong as carbon nanotubes. Another remarkable allotrope is lonsdaleite, which occurs when meteorites containing graphite strike the earth. The substance been laboratory stimulated and still retains ultra strong properties, including hardness that exceeds diamond by nearly 60%.
These and other ultra strong materials will likely play a major role in the high performance electronics and mechanics of the future, and may even become a factor in even stronger substances yet to be discovered and developed. How would you put them to use?