Scientists are trying to figure out what makes the fiber that spiders spin at least five times as strong as piano wire. Spider silk may eventually become a medical miracle that can produce skin grafts for burn victims, helps knit broken bones together and may one day even be used to make light weight bulletproof vests.
Spider silk is an exceptional biological polymer, related to collagen (the stuff of skin and bones) but much more complex in its structure. Chemists are studying its molecular structure in an effort to produce materials ranging from bulletproof vests to artificial tendons.
Dutch artist Jalila Essaïdi and cell biologist Abdoelwaheb El Ghalbzouri have blended synthetic spider silk with human skin to produce a superstrong material that can stop a rifle bullet, since spider silk is three times stronger than Kevlar.
When we hear about police being shot, we always wonder why they weren't wearing their vests, and one reason is because they're HEAVY. Bulletproof vests are made from 33 layers of Kevlar, thus using many layers of spider silk could prove just as effective in stopping a bullet and would be lighter in weight than Kevlar.
Biochemist Jeffrey Yarger says, "Spider silk has a unique combination of mechanical strength and elasticity that make it one of the toughest materials we know."
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