Superhero Science: Amazing Spider-Man

Superhero Science: Amazing Spider-Man

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can

Are scientists close to making Spider-Man a reality?

Super strong silk

Spider-Man must have very strong silk to be able to swing through the skyline.

Scientists want to make super strong silk. Real spider silk is stronger than steel, but it's hard to get spiders to make enough of it. Spiders like to eat each other, so it's hard to get them to get along!

Instead, scientists use silk worms. Silk worms are easy to farm, but their silk is fragile. To make silk worm silk stronger, scientists have transplanted genes from spiders into silk worms.


Spider silk is as strong as steel

The silk worms make a combination of worm and spider silk, which is very tough. It could be used in medicine, to make stronger stitches. It could also be used as a greener substitute for tough plastics.

Maybe one day scientists will be able to use the silk to swing through New York, just like Spider-Man!

Climbing up walls

Spider-Man can climb up walls very quickly. Some spiders have specialised hairs on their feet that help them to climb walls. That means Spider-Man must have very hairy palms!

Scientists think that we'll be able to climb walls just like a spider one day. Some scientists have invented a tape that is 10x stickier than a spider or gecko foot.


Spider-Man climbs up skyscrapers

The scientists grew forest of carbon nanotubes - microscopic pieces of carbon - on a piece of plastic. The carbon nanotubes act just like the hairs on a spider's foot.

These tiny carbon nanotubes are a kind of microscopic Velcro. Wearing boots and gloves with this microscopic Velcro would let us climb up walls and stand upside down on ceilings.

Have a look at the tape holding up a 42 inch TV:

OK, so it's not as impressive as Spider-Man, but scientists have said that they can make superhero suits if we need them. I need one, do you?!

Spider sense

Spider-Man is famous for his spider sense. Spiders have specialised hairs connected to their nervous system. These hairs help spiders work out quickly what they are touching.

Perhaps Spider-Man has very sensitive hairs that can detect sound waves - a bit like super-sensitive hearing. This helps Spider-Man to detect baddies that are far away from him.

Scientists haven't worked out how to get spider sense naturally. Instead we rely on technologies like radar, sonar and infra-red cameras to find what we're looking for.

Main image (c) Nemo's Great Uncle