Toughness of Spider Silk at High and Low Temperatures


  • This work is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC, No. 20244005), the Science and Technology Development Foundation of Shanghai, the China-UK Science and Technology Research Foundation. For funding FV, DK and DP thank the British EPSRC (grant GR/NO1538/01) and BBSRC (S12778) as well as the European Commission (grant G5RD-CT-2002-00738) and the AFSOR of the United States of America (grant F49620-03-1-0111).


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The toughness of the major ampullate silk of spiders is shown to increase at low temperatures, unlike synthetic fibers. This temperature dependence of the mechanical properties of spider silk, together with other remarkable properties, demonstrates the potential usefulness of such a super-fiber in harsh environments. The Figure shows a single fiber of Nephila edulis spider silk fractured in liquid nitrogen.