Technology

Spider silk could be used to create artificial muscles or robotic actuators: Study


Above a certain level of relative humidity in the air, they suddenly contract and twist, exerting enough force to potentially be competitive with other materials being explored as actuators - devices that move to perform some activity such as controlling a valve.


Researchers recently discovered a property of spider silk called supercontraction, in which the slender fibres can suddenly shrink in response to changes in moisture.


The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, is that not only do the threads contract, they also twist at the same time, providing a strong torsional force.


My colleagues and I wanted to study the influence of humidity on spider dragline silk," said Dabiao Liu, an associate professor at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China.


To do so, they suspended a weight from the silk to make a kind of pendulum, and enclosed it in a chamber where they could control the relative humidity inside.


"Potential applications are diverse: from humidity-driven soft robots and sensors, to smart textiles and green energy generators," said Tarakanova, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut.






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