Nonlinear material behaviour of spider silk yields robust webs

Cranford, Steven W. and Tarakanova, Anna and Pugno, Nicola M. and Buehler, Markus J. (2012) Nonlinear material behaviour of spider silk yields robust webs. In «Nature», vol. 482, London, UK : Nature Publishing Group, pp. 72-76.

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    Although spider silk is used by spiders for many purposes, from wrapping prey to lining retreats22, 23, here we focus on silk’s structural role in aerial webs and on how silk’s material properties relate to web function. The mechanical behaviour of silk, like that of other biological materials, is determined by the nature of its constituent molecules and their hierarchical assembly into fibres13, 16, 17, 24, 25, 26 (Supplementary Fig. 1). Spider webs themselves are characterized by a highly organized geometry that optimizes their function7, 8, 18, 19, 20. To explore the contribution of the material characteristics to web function, we developed a web model with spiral and radial threads based on the geometry commonly found in orb webs1. The silk material behaviour was parameterized from atomistic simulations of dragline silk from the species Nephila clavipes (model A)16, 17 (Fig. 1a, b) and validated against experiments10 (Methods Summary). Properties of silk can vary across evolutionary lineages by over 100% (refs 9, 27 and 28; Supplementary Information section 1), so we avoided species-specific silk properties and instead used a representative model to reflect the characteristic nonlinear stress–strain (σ–ε) behaviour of silk found in a web. The mechanical performance of individual silk threads has been previously investigated10, 12, 13, and is in agreement with our model in terms of tensile deformation behaviour.

    Item Type: Article in journal
    FP7 Grant Agreement Number: European Research Council/ERC Starting grant/EU/FP7/279985
    Department or Research center: Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering
    Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General) > TA164 Bioengineering
    T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General) > TA630 Structural Engineering
    Repository staff approval on: 06 Nov 2013 12:20

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