Common house spider - Achaearanea tepidariorum
May 17, 2014

Spider Silk Inspires A More Efficient, Stronger Commercial And Biomedical Adhesive

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

Whether you think they are creepy and scary, or useful and beautiful, one has to admit that spiders are also fascinating. And it isn't just Hollywood that finds spiders irresistible - research scientists find them equally alluring.

A group of researchers from the University of Akron (UA), for example, have just released a new study demonstrating a more efficient and stronger commercial and biomedical adhesive inspired by spider silk. This adhesive, described in the Journal of Polymer Physics, could potentially attach tendons to bones or bind fractures.

Dr. Ali Dhinojwala, UA’s H.A. Morton professor of polymer science, led the team that created synthetic duplicates of the super-sticky, silk “attachment discs” that spiders use to attach their webs to surfaces. Working like stitches or staples, Dhinojwala explained in a statement that the discs are created when spiders pin down one thread under additional threads. A very strong attachment force is created using the "staple-pin" geometry of the discs, with very little material outlay.

The research team used a process called electrospinning to draw very fine fibers from liquid polyurethane using electrical charges. This allowed them to imitate the efficient staple-pin design by pinning down a nylon thread with the electrospun fibers.

“This adhesive architecture holds promise for potential applications in the area of adhesion science, particularly in the field of biomedicine where the cost of the materials is a significant constraint,” the authors wrote.

According to Dhinojwala, the design has potential applications for common adhesives stronger than tape and glue, as well as biomedical uses.

“Instead of using big globs of glue, for example, we can use this unique and efficient design of threads pinning down a fiber,” he said. “The inspiration was right in front of us, in nature.”

“You can learn a lot of science from nature,” added Dharamdeep Jain, a graduate student at UA.

This study represents a continuing fascination with spiders at the University of Akron.

Previously, Dhinojwala collaborated with former graduate student Vasav Sahni to study the adhesive properties of spider silk.

Last year, Todd Blackledge, Leuchtag Endowed Chair and associate professor of biology and integrated bioscience at UA, published a study detailing the possible uses of spider silk in developing materials as strong as steel, but as flexible as rubber.