Spider webs are frequently thought of as an annoyance, or an indication that an area has not been well cleaned. However, those who research and study spider webs realize that the web itself has some impressive properties, which could lead to amazing advancements in our society. To begin with, spider webs are silk, but it is stronger than steel and tougher than Kevlar. The web can be stretched several times its length before it breaks. For these reasons, and more, scientists have been studying and attempting to replicate spider webs for decades.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have created a new material that mimics spider silk’s strength, its stretchiness, and energy-absorbing energy. This newly created material can offer the possibility of improving on products such as bike helmets, parachutes, bulletproof jackets, and even airplane wings. Possibly the most impressive aspect of this material is its 98% water. The other 2% account for silica and cellulose, which are held together by cucurbiturils, molecules that serve as “handcuffs.” While this material is not quite as strong as spider’s silk, it is not too far behind.
Many other universities and research teams are looking into the creation of similar materials, or advancements with this material. Other potential applications include sail cloth, parachute fabric, hot air balloon material, and bike or skateboard helmets. The material is biocompatible, which means it could be used inside the human body for things like stitches! While the research is still in early stages, it appears to have a promising future.