Spider silk is ten times stronger than Kevlar, and it's also so stretchy that scientists have compared it to muscles. Now, nature's most amazing material could revolutionize electronics, too. Especially when it's converted into super silk with carbon nanotubes.
Scientists have blended carbon nanotubes with spider silk to create stretchy, conductive fibers that could one day be used in circuits.
Over at Txchnolgist, Charles Choi describes an experiment where scientists blended spider silk with carbon nanotubes:
Although spider silk is tough, it becomes soft when exposed to water. The researchers mixed silk fibers they harvested from golden orb-weaver spiders (Nephila clavipes) with a dry powder of carbon nanotubes, wet this blend slightly with a few droplets of water, and rubbed it together.
"We were surprised by how easy it was to coat spider silk fibers with carbon nanotubes," says Eden Steven, a physicist at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Fla. "We originally tried using conventional coating methods using many chemicals and also high-temperature processing, but later on we found out only water and pressure was enough."
The fibers contracted when the mix dried, and incorporated a uniform coating of nanotubes around themselves.
This hybrid material is not only electrically conductive, but also roughly three times tougher than regular spider silk fibers. Experiments suggest it could perform as well as regular spider silk as an artificial muscle.
"Electrical conductivity was maintained even when the fiber was stretched by 50 percent," Steven says.