From violin strings to beautiful golden garments, delicate spider silk is good for much more than trapping delicious insects. Scientists at Iowa State University have put the organic threads to the test, and found that spider silk is an incredible natural heat conductor. The stretchy substance conducts heat 800 times better than any other organic material!
As we know, spider silk is extremely pliable and stretchy, as we’ve all come across the complex webs that attach themselves in our doorways. This strength and stretchability, combined with its heat-conducting properties, could make spider silk an ideal material for human technology.
The silk from eight golden silk orb-weaver spiders was tested by researchers at the university, lead by associate professor of mechanical engineering Xinwei Wang. The studies found that the organic silks not only conducted heat better than other organic materials, but also better than silicon, aluminum, and pure iron, with the strongest parts of the silk being the drag points of the web — the reinforced corners that spiders anchor when switching direction.
When the researchers stretched the spider silk, its conductive properties actually increased in proportion to its stretching, while most materials lose conductivity as they are stretched. The silk’s proteins and nanocrystals help reinforce the defect-free molecular structure, which researchers attribute to its incredible conductivity. While further testing needs to be performed, scientist anticipate spider silk clothing for hot climates, bandages that stay cool, and flexible materials for electronics in the future.
Images via Wikimedia Commons