Spider silk-based carbon nanotubes pave way for exciting new applications

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The strength and resilience of spider silk juxtaposed with the microscopical dimension of a nanotube can lead to electricity and heat conducting devices, says a study.

Eden Steven, a physicist at Florida State University's MagLab facility, discovered during his experiments with spider silk a strong polymer which is remarkably flexible and completely biodegradable and carbon nanotubes that simple methods could result in surprising and environmental friendly outcomes.

"If we understand basic science and how nature works, all we need to do is find a way to harness it," Steven said. "If we can find a smart way to harness it, then we can use it to create a new, cleaner technology."

The findings of the research are now published online in a journal Nature Communications.

Steven is the lead investigator on the paper "Carbon nanotubes on a spider silk scaffold". The experiment may result in practical applications in electrical conductivity, reports Science Daily.

Think of a nanotube as a one-atom thick sheet of carbon that has been rolled into an infinitesimally tiny tube. A nanotube's diameter is atleast 10,000 times smaller than a strand of human hair. When things get that microscopically minute, they act very strange, say physicists.

Researchers worldwide are intrigued by the properties of carbon nanotubes, including their amazing strength and ability to conduct electricity and heat.

"It turns out that this high-grade, remarkable material has many functions," Steven said about the spider silk coated in carbon nanotubes. "It can be used as a humidity sensor, a strain sensor, an actuator (a device that acts as an artificial muscle, for lifting weights and more) and as an electrical wire."

(Image credit: MagLab)

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