Updated: Jun 12
Researchers have made a significant breakthrough in cracking the code on spinning artificial spider silk using water and ambient temperatures, unlocking tremendous potential for various industries, particularly manufacturing. Spider silk, long regarded as one of nature's enigmas, has defied even the most accomplished scientific teams. This groundbreaking discovery promises to revolutionize our understanding and utilization of spider silk, paving the way for exciting advancements in multiple fields.
Apparently, spider silk has been able to be manufactured artificially, but the process requires environmentally harmful chemicals and extremely high temperatures, making the process dangerous and costly. For the first time, a team out of Kyoto University has isolated a common spider protein, called MaSp2, and figured out how lowered Ph along with water and mechanical pressure causes the liquid to spontaneously form into the incredibly strong fiber we know as spider silk.
Spider silk is among the strongest fiber on earth, and typically far exceeds the tensile strength of any man-made fiber by orders of magnitude. One could say this fiber is indeed small but mighty.
One key component to the shapeshifting ability of spider protein is something call liquid-liquid phase separation. This happens often in cells, and is the phenomenon seen when droplets change size, shape, and density according to environmental conditions. The team first saw liquid-liquid phase separation when potassium phosphate was added to MaSp2, which caused the droplets to go from clusters to big, dense drops. After much trial and error, the team saw the fibers we all know and love (or hate), forming after the Ph was lowered to cause a more acidic environment. This points the way to how a common household bug can so uncommon. Reference: Kyoto University. (2020, November 30). How does the spider spin its self-assembled silk? Biochemists present a new model on how spider silk is made. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 6, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201130101136.htm