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How Spider Webs Stay Tense, and How It Can Help Us

Spider webs defied commonsense, if not larger laws of physics and nature. They remain taut at all times, unlike other fibers, that would sag when soft and buckle if hard. According to a report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences quoted in Science, a team of researchers discovered that the thread behaved like an elastic solid when stretched. But when compressed, droplets of liquid silk that dot the fiber cause the solid silk to spool like a liquid. This keeps the silk taut even when it is compressed up to 95%. In other words, the web switched from solid-like behavior to a liquid-like one, as tension across the thread changes. Based on the findings, the team developed a “liquid wire”: a hybrid material made from droplets of silicone oil on a polyurethane thread. The discovery may find application in robotics, artificial muscles, and even flexible, stretchable electronics. And, we hope at, that it may provide the key to the electronic paper.


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