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Molecular determinants of toughness of spider silk identified [Registered]

Scientists now have a better understanding of why spider silk fibres are so incredibly strong. Recent research, published in Biophysical Journal (2011, 100 (5): 1298-1395), describes the architecture of silk fibres from the atomic level up and reveals new information about the molecular structure that underlies the amazing mechanical characteristics of this natural material. Spiders spin silk, which is remarkably strong and stretchy, to use in webs and to suspend themselves. “Silk fibres exhibit astonishing mechanical properties. They have an ultimate strength comparable to steel, toughness greater than Kevlar and a density less than cotton or nylon,” explains senior study…

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