Thursday, January 26, 2012

Short Sharp Science - The science of the golden spider-silk cape

Andrew Purcell, online producer
1st pic 137589598.jpg(Image: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
The world of art and design is abuzz with talk of the spider-silk cape being shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Yet, despite it's beauty, the shawl is perhaps more a wonder of nature than of fashion design.
The cape was created over eight years using silk from over one million Madagascar golden orb spiders (Nephila madagascariensis). These spiders, large enough to fill the palm of your hand, are almost completely blind. Their eyes are only able to vaguely detect changes in light. Instead, they rely on their keen sense of touch to feel vibrations on their web and quickly track down entangled prey.
Weight for weight, typical spider silk is 20 times as strong as steel and four times as tough as Kevlar. It's also extremely flexible, stretching up to 50 per cent of its length without breaking.
Silk is also biodegradable and does not elicit an immune response, which means it could be put to a range of uses within the human body. Scientists across the globe are researching possibilities ranging from using silk scaffolds to help repair damaged musculature and broken bones to using silk to deliver ultra-thin electronics directly onto the surface of the brain.
Read more about the potential applications of silk-based technology, both inside and outside the human body, in "Stretching spider silk to its high-tech limits".
2nd pic rexfeatures_1545072f.jpg 
(Image: Paul Grover/Rex Features )

The gown is on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London until 5 June 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment