David Nield writing for Science Alert:
“We were expecting to find that the fiber was a single mass,” says one of the team, Hannes Schniepp. “But what we found was that the silk was actually a kind of tiny cable.”
The idea of nanostrands in spider silk has been suggested before, but this is the first time scientists have been able to clearly see how it works, and to what extent. The researchers chose the brown recluse spider for the study, because its silk is flat rather than cylindrical.
Each nanostrand is at least 50 times as long as it is wide, and once you factor in the special looping technique that the same lab team discovered last year, you’re left with a super-sturdy material that’s five times stronger than steel in the weight it can hold.
“We believe that the secret of brown recluse spider silk essentially stems from the individual nanofibril,” says Schniepp.
The cool thing is of course how this can be used on humans. David continues to say:
Plenty of research has already been carried out into creating artificial spider silk – for everything from making bike helmets to healing wounds – and the latest nanoscale research should prove very useful indeed.