Strong like spider silk

Strong like spider silk

Scientists have discovered why spider webs are so strong

Did you know? Spider silk is five times as strong as steel!

Scientists have discovered why spider webs are able to withstand huge forces without breaking. To find out how much force spider webs can stand, scientists tested real spider webs and ran computer simulations. They found that some spider webs can withstand hurricane-force winds!

Super strong silk

Although silk is very strong, that's not the only important factor in a web's strength. Spider webs have a very complex design. The way the web is built means that if a single strand of web breaks, the strength of the web actually increases. Pretty impressive from a humble spider!

Spider webs can withstand hurricane level forces

A spider web becoming stronger when a thread breaks is an incredibly clever material property. Imagine if we built objects that, when a bit broke off, the objects got stronger! Scientists hope that this finding could be used to help design new super strong materials.

Scientists also found that spider silk can react differently to different types of forces. If a light wind blows on the web, the silk softens and becomes more flexible. The spider web can blow in the breeze without breaking. If a larger force is applied to one part of the web, the silk in that part of the web becomes stiff and one or two threads break. The rest of the web stays intact.

Why do spiders need strong sillk?

These unique properties of silk are very important for spiders. It takes a lot of energy to build a web. If only a couple of threads break, the spider doesn't have to start building a whole web from scratch. Also, spiders need their webs to catch food. If the web broke every time an insect flew into it, it wouldn't be a very good trap! Instead, the web is flexible enough to stretch when an insect lands in it, strong enough not to break and sticky enough to trap the insect.

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Curriculum information

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