Spider silk's strange reaction to moisture could lead to better artificial muscles

It's light and stretchy, as strong as steel and tougher than Kevlar – and now scientists have discovered a weird new ability.

A team led by MIT has found that when exposed to a certain level of humidity, spider silk suddenly shrinks and twists, which could make it useful in artificial muscles.

This "supercontraction" was found to occur in response to moisture, which is believed to help keep the fibers taut in the morning dew.

But while investigating this reaction to humidity, the team working on the current study discovered it wasn't just shrinking but twisting too.

To figure out just how this twisting occurs, the team examined spider silk in the lab and created computer models of its molecular makeup.

"Potential applications are diverse: from humidity-driven soft robots and sensors, to smart textiles and green energy generators."

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