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MIT Labs Moves Ahead In Synthesizing Spider Silk

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the spiderweave-cap-of-the-bear dept.

Science 135

icepick72 writes in with a link to an ExtremeTech article on new methods for creating synthetic spider silk. This material, like lycra in many ways, has a number of unique properties. The MIT lab that created it is being monitored by military elements, keenly interested in applications of this material to front-line technologies. From the article: "The secret of spider silk's combined strength and flexibility, according to scientists, has to do with the arrangement of the nano-crystalline reinforcement of the silk as it is being produced--in other words, the way these tiny crystals are oriented towards (and adhere to) the stretchy protein. Emulating this process in a synthetic polymer, the MIT team focused on reinforcing solutions of commercial rubbery substance known as polyurethane elastomer with nano-sized clay platelets instead of simply heating and mixing the molten plastics with reinforcing agents."

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Spiderman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17700162)

They can make spiderman outfits...that... look like hte movie...

I love these kinds of statements (4, Funny)

peektwice (726616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700180)

Scientists have previously suggested that a mere pencil-thick strand of silk could actually stop a Boeing 747 in mid flight.
Sounds like "It can transmit the entire library of congress in less than a minute."
If the author of TFA needs to dumb it down for him/herself, fine. But I wish they wouldn't assume that we all have a G.W.Bush I.Q.

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1, Flamebait)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700208)

But I wish they wouldn't assume that we all have a G.W.Bush I.Q.

Yeah really! Many of us are too smart to graduate from an Ivy League University and be elected President, twice.

LK

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700268)

I think the Douglas Adam's quote about power and presidents applies here :)

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1, Funny)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700332)

Many of us are too smart to graduate from an Ivy League University and be elected President, twice.

Yeah, and we all know how to hack into school records and voting machines, too. Daddy, I wanna be president :-Q~

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1)

RmB303 (623042) | more than 7 years ago | (#17704664)

Yeah really! Many of us are too smart to graduate from an Ivy League University and be elected President, twice.
What's even smarter is to be elected twice, having only won one election.

GW Bush is not that dumb. (-1, Offtopic)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700298)

People voted for him.

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (0, Flamebait)

Fizzl (209397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700412)

Is that supposed to be some kind of proof? I see no connection between Bush being a flaming moron and majority of flaming morons voting him.
Your whole country is composed of half-wits.

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (0)

Basehart (633304) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700420)

"Your whole country is composed of half-wits."

I was enjoying your comments until I got to that bit.

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17700428)

You missed the point, champ. If he were such an idiot, how'd he beat his "obviously smarter" opponent, who could have just acted similarly to win over the "whole country" of half-wits?

To put it in terms you might be able to grasp, this is a proof by contraction.

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (1)

MadUndergrad (950779) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700742)

I believe that the term is "he fell ass-backwards into the Presidency".

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (1)

Fizzl (209397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700754)

Name.
All it takes to sway a moron without an opinion is the name.

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (2, Funny)

fredrated (639554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700758)

So in your world there is a correlation between political achievement and intelligence?

My god, which world is this you are from? If this is true it must be a paradise on Earth! If we could but all live there.

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702040)

My god, which world is this you are from? If this is true it must be a paradise on Earth!
No no, that's the whole idea. It is not on Earth! Silly hunams...

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702272)

Of course there is a correlation between political achievement and intelligence, even on this planet. I think if that if you calculate the coefficient, it will show a strong correlation, something around -0.92 or so.

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (1)

jcorno (889560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702460)

My god, which world is this you are from? If this is true it must be a paradise on Earth! If we could but all live there.

If we all lived there, it wouldn't be like that any more.

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17700784)

Well, thanks. I've seen my daily affirmation of the consequent [wikipedia.org] . Now I can see about making breakfast.

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (2, Insightful)

MadUndergrad (950779) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700884)

That's a rather unfair generalization. I'd say we average about .6wit. There are maybe 10% with their wits about them, 10% totally witless, about 55% are half-wits, and 25% are .8wits. Unfortunately the witless and the halfwits come out in droves, and most vote strait-ticket for whomever opposes gay people and reason.

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (1)

Fizzl (209397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17703284)

Thank you :)
You'r answer to my ill tempered trolling was most excellent :)

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700980)

What a stupid generalisation. What about all the quarter-wits?

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17701270)

Your whole country is composed of half-wits.

Now see here! I am not a mere half-wit. I am a FULL half-wit. That makes a lot of difference.

Burp. Waiter! Bring me some of them flaming snails and a Coke! (Man, these Frenchies over here in Paree is a bunch o dummies. They don't even have KFC.)

Re:GW Bush is not that dumb. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17700484)

So what?
Many US-presidents are infamously dumb.
So what does that prove again?

Re:I love these kinds of statements (3, Interesting)

sarahbau (692647) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700344)

Sounds like "It can transmit the entire library of congress in less than a minute."
If the author of TFA needs to dumb it down for him/herself, fine. But I wish they wouldn't assume that we all have a G.W.Bush I.Q.
I hate it when they say something like "as long as 4200 garbage trucks lined up end to end." Am I supposed to visualize that? How long is a garbage truck exactly? It would be much easier for me to understand the scale of something if they actually gave the size instead of trying to relate it in terms of something else.

Re:I love these kinds of statements (4, Insightful)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700424)

1. When you're trying to visualize something, it's easier to relate it to something you see often. Which do you see more often, 30 rulers lined end to end, or a garbage truck?

2. Its easier to visualize less of something than more of something. Which is easier to visualize, a TV that is the height of 100,000 grains of sand, or a TV that is the width of a two-person sofa?

Re:I love these kinds of statements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17700666)

30 rulers end to end.

I don't do mornings, and that's when the trucks come here (I assume).

Re:I love these kinds of statements (2, Insightful)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702210)

Something like "a 1/4 mile" is much better in my opinion.

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702316)

Most people drive, and will understand distances given in metres to something the length of their trip to the grocery store, or something. At least, that's what I do.

(~2km to my store of choice, 100m to something closer with fewer choices). /I walk

Re:I love these kinds of statements (4, Funny)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701020)

It does depend. Something like "The size of a football pitch" is fine for indicating area. We all know roughly what that looks like. But all too often we see silly examples. Like that 747 example. Is that good? I've never tried stopping a 747 in mid flight. What sort of thickness would you need to lift a person or tow a car? I've seen climbing ropes and towing ropes so I have a frame of reference. And It's bad when there are too many. I've never seen 4200 garbage trucks.

I remember reading that a particular hangar was "As tall as an olympic swimming pool on its end". This irritated me for two reasons.
  • I've never seen an olympic swimming pool on its end.
  • If you did that, the water would pour out.

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701390)

So, you can neither imagine turning the swimming pool through 90o or that it's empty?

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701590)

The second pont was just a silly joke.

As for turning it through 90 degrees - no. I couldn't picture that. Without looking up measurements, what size building would you say is the same sort of size?

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1)

sarahbau (692647) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702372)

It does depend. Something like "The size of a football pitch" is fine for indicating area. We all know roughly what that looks like.
Actually I have no idea how big that is. I had to Google "football pitch" to even find out that it is a soccer field. This is another annoyance. When they do this, they assume that everyone in the world knows how big something is. Sports balls are some of the most common things they compare to - the size of a baseball, the size of a softball, the size of a football. Is that an American football, or what the rest of the world calls a football? I'm sure there are people in other countries who don't know how big a softball is. It's the size of a grapefruit. Well how big is that? I know what a grapefruit is, but again, I'm sure there are people who don't. 10cm or 4in is a size just about everyone will know.

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17704708)

Well, okay. I made the mistake of assuming that the term "pitch" for a sports field made sense in the US. But an American football field and a soccer field are about the same size and accurate enough for indicating size to most people of a certain nation. But you raise a good point. With national specific items, I agree with you. The size of a quarter is something that is known to all Americans, but not really a good indicator outside. But is 10cm really a useful size? I'm sure most Americans and most British people over the age of 50 aren't going to have any idea. Most Europens will probably struggle with 4 inches. I'm sure more people have seen a grapefruit than regularly use either of those measurements. And when someone talks about 1kg, I tend to think how heavy a 1kg bag of sugar is to get some idea of the weight we're talking about.

Re:I love these kinds of statements (5, Funny)

Divebus (860563) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700430)

...a mere pencil-thick strand of silk could actually stop a Boeing 747 in mid flight

Ohhh... this stuff would make fabulous condoms. They could recover the entire R&D budget in three weekends.

Re:I love these kinds of statements (4, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700636)

But less friction is involved with stopping a 747...

Re:I love these kinds of statements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17700656)

I think that depends on who they market it to. If they tried to target the Slashdot crowd, there would be no way they could recover the costs.

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1)

eMbry00s (952989) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701470)

I'm not so sure about that. I would imagine many people's feelings go along the lines of SPIDER SILK ON MY PENIS OH MY GOD

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17701782)

"Look out! Here comes the Spider-Man!"

I like the condom idea, but (1)

wwphx (225607) | more than 7 years ago | (#17703012)

my hunter just got a pattern for an armor that requires spider silk. I wonder if I could use the spider silk, and if so, how long it'll take for the synthetic stuff to make it to Warcraft?

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700460)

If the author of TFA needs to dumb it down for him/herself, fine. But I wish they wouldn't assume that we all have a G.W.Bush I.Q.
It seemed like quite an illuminating example to me..

Would you prefer "it can withstand an impulsive force of 4.1x10^7 N"? Do you want to feel smart or just get a feel for what they're up to?
(For the pedantic; yes that figure may well be off by an order of magnitude.)

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1)

massivefoot (922746) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700770)

Your figure could be correct. Using data from Wikipedia for a Boeing 747-400, we have a cruise speed of 913 km/h = 253.6 m/s, and a maximum weight of 396890kg giving a fully loaded aircraft in flight a momentum of 1.01x10^8 kg m s^-1. However the empty weight is less than half this figure, so a lightly loaded 747 flying slowly could have a momentum of 4.1x10^7 kg m s^-1.

What is wrong though is your unit and your term "impulsive force". Impulse (which is indeed what we should be talking about when we want to bring a moving body to rest) is the time integral of force, and has units of Newton seconds, not Newtons.

And yes, I would prefer 1.01x10^8 Ns to "can stop a 747."

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702432)

I prefer real world examples, possibly because I don't feel a need to flog my brain in front of everyone to keep from feeling inadequate.

Re:I love these kinds of statements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17702558)

If we're going to be pedantic, note that impulse is the integral of force over time, and hence the more time you allow, the less force is required. The longer the piece of silk, the less force it will supply and the more slowly it will impart the required impulse and stop the place. Ergo, the comment in the article is meaningless without further restriction in terms of the length of the rope or the time allowed.

It seems the article is either trying to tell us about the strength in terms of breaking stress or about some product of breaking stress and elasticity. The latter would actually require units of energy density as in "one gram of the material can store as much elastic energy as a library of congress full of slashdot pedants wastes typing corrections that won't get read during one MS Windows product cycle". Or something.

Re:I love these kinds of statements (0, Offtopic)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701396)

I wonder if you could get a GPA higher than Kerry's?

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701398)

When I read the comment about stopping 747s in mid flight, I immediately had a vision of a huge net of this material covering the Whitehouse and the Pentagon, ready for the next time those black-hatted Al-Qaeda guys try to pull a fast one on Cowboy George and the Neocon posse!

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1, Troll)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702456)

Four minutes from story to the first boring, unrelated Bush joke. Slashdot is slipping, I expect this useless "comedy" in the first minute. What's wrong with you guys? You losing taste for being not funny? Or maybe it takes you longer to think of a new way to say the same damn thing for the millionth time?

Re:I love these kinds of statements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17702722)

Pff. Big deal. I could stop a 747 in flight with 4 poodles...one through each turbine.

Re:I love these kinds of statements (1)

briancnorton (586947) | more than 7 years ago | (#17704504)

There is nothing wrong with using the time-tested "star trek method" of scientific explanation. ("Reverse the polarity of the heisenberg interlopers, it'll be like putting too much air into a balloon") Most people don't have a good frame of reference for tensile strength, so it's not a bad way to put it.

Also, G. Dub is actually pretty smart. (you don't get to be president by being stupid) He may make poor choices or flub his speech, but neither is a reflection of intelligence.

Back to spiders... (0, Redundant)

Nulagrithom (998099) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700184)

Perhaps they should try creating large metal spider butts in order to replicate the spider-silk process?

Seriously though, I want to know why it's so difficult for us to make it, but a spider just kind of shits it out. How'd this happen?

Re:Back to spiders... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17700288)

> Seriously though, I want to know why it's so difficult for us to make it, but a spider just kind of shits it out. How'd this happen?

It's funnier than spiders shitting it out, it's all about the goats shooting it out of their tits [slashdot.org] .

And in memory of the first AC to make me spew coffee not just all over the keyboard and the monitor, but into the adjacent cube, the following comment didn't quite make it into the archives some six years ago:

"In case you don't read the article, silk does not just come shooting out of their tits. It's like this..."

someday, man, someday.

If it's any consolation, the goats probably do shoot it outa their tits by now.

Re:Back to spiders... (1)

Blighten (992637) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702464)

Actually it's the silk protein that is produced in the goat's milk. The process of creating the silk for the web deals with pushing it through (varying the amount of water mixed with it) the silk sac. The gene (and protein) sequence for the silk protein is known, but the actually process of making it into a web is still in the R&D department. Sorry if the parent already said this.. I'm too lazy to look. :P

Re:Back to spiders... (1)

theurge14 (820596) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700318)

Give us a break, spiders have about a 400 million year head start on us.

Re:Back to spiders... (1)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700568)

So have winged reptiles (birds), and look where we are now after what the Wright Brothers achieved with first flight, in little over a century. What is your point?

Re:Back to spiders... (1)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701956)

The Wright Brothers were years behind the actual inventors to build the first sustained flight capable aeroplane, and this was done in Europe.

Re:Back to spiders... (1)

lhbtubajon (469284) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702420)

The Wright brothers developed POWERED flight. That is a hugely different thing than a glider that can ride thermals.

Powered flight = birds

Non-powered flight = flying squirrel

Both are impressive achievements, but be real. The Wright brothers fathered modern air travel.

Re:Back to spiders... (1)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 7 years ago | (#17703030)

I think you are splitting hairs there, its still flight and it is the only way mankind is going to match and exceed natural flight.

Re:Back to spiders... (2, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700372)

"large metal spider butts"

I hear one group tried this, but a soon as one of them mentioned the word "large", the female spider attached to the butt ate the whole group.

Seriously, I worked in a nylon spinning plant a long time ago and a large knitting machine looks a bit like a spiders butt Howvever, it takes a five story tall "machine" engineered with incredible presicion to make the fine threads that go into a stocking, the static on some parts of the machine can throw a spark over a foot long.

I don't know exactly how a spider's butt works (or for that matter a nylon plant), but I assume the spiders superiour abilities are related to the intricate and amazingly complex nano machinery [youtube.com] inside every cell of the spider.

Re:Back to spiders... (4, Informative)

Richard Kirk (535523) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701220)

Long chain molecules contain lots of carbon-carbon bonds. The polythene thing you get at the top of a six-pack of beer has lots of these chain molecules, but it is fairly weak. Stretch a bit of it, and you will see a sudden jump between the fat, unstretched material, and the skinnier, stretched material. The stretched stuff is a lot less stretchy. What you have done when you stretched the thing was to align the molecules, so you have chains of carbon-carbon bonds in the direction you have stretched the thing. Mylar - the stuff you sometimes find inside bicycle wheels and protective cloting is strengthened in this way.

That is only part of the secret. A diamond is made of carbon-carbon bonds in every direction, but you can shatter a diamond, and when you do the energies absorbed by the diamond are pretty tiny. If you want to make something tough, you will need some strategy for the thing to yeild and absorb energy. Metals yeild when they are stressed beyond a certain point, but they can still keep their strength. Carbon fibre materials can crack, but the carbon fibres have two strategies for resisting the crack. The fibres can separate from the glue matrix. If a fibre lies across the gap, then a lot of work is necessary to pull the fibtre free of the matrix as the crack opens. If the fibre lies along the crack, it can stop the crack becayse the crack may run around the fibre surface, and so end up with a blunt tip (the sharper the crack tip is, the more it concentrates the stress). ness of the crack tip .

Another thing you will probably need in a sting is some ability to absorb energy without yeilding. Steel wire is a lot lighter for the same ability to support load, but climbers do not use it. The first thing a climber's rope needs to do is to absorb the energy from the falling climber. If it does not stretch, then the energy has to be absorbed over a small distance, so the force needed has to be that much bigger. Making where the threads so not go straight up and down have more 'give' in them.

Okay - I have cut a lot of corners in this explanation. There are scientific terms for strength, hardness, toughness, and things like that that are often confused in ordinary speech. However, I hope I have got across the basics - making long chain molecules isn't enough - you have to make them go up and down the thread; but not straight up and down or the thread will not stretch; and you have to glue them together with something sticky that absorbs energy as it yeilds. A spider's butt probably manages this because it is small, and the spinarets are a complex shape. All the bits seem do-able, but it's a good trick: people have been trying for many years, and we are not close yet. Maybe, there is another trick in there we haven't suspected yet.

PS: The process probably won't scale. So, you will have thousands of minature spider's butts, rather than one giant one.

Re:Back to spiders... (1)

ElDuque (267493) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701602)

Nice explanation; I'd like to add that climbers don't use steel cables because, like you said, they absorb the energy of the fall over a short distance - very uncomfortable/dangerous to the climber when he or she falls.

With a rope you get a nice "stretch" and bounce rather than jerked to a stop and a possible case of whiplash.

For the same reason, safety lanyards used to tie off in construction have a "bunched" portion that expands under load.

Re:Back to spiders... (1)

visualight (468005) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702206)

Commonly referred to as "static" line, and "shock" line.

Re:Back to spiders... (2, Informative)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702636)

also why seatbelts have a stiched "break away" section - the stitching gives, and slows you before you take the full florce of the belt. Also why you are supposed to replace the seatbelt after a crash (or at least inspect the stiching)

Re:Back to spiders... (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17704330)

A lot of spiders webs have blobs of goo every so often along any particular stretch of silk. The surface tension of the blob of goo pulls the nearest sections of silk inside the blob and so pulls the line taught. When the prey impacts the web, the silk inside the blob is stretched out and this absorbs the stress, so that the web doesn't break.

Re:Back to spiders... (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701286)

Maybe they need Cyborg spiders ala The Web Between The Worlds :)

Re:Back to spiders... (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701406)

Was that supposed to be funny or do you have no actual understanding of what you're talking about?

Spiderman (1)

AnnuitCoeptis (1049058) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700210)

They are reinventing the prior art of his.

Be careful, MIT (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17700214)

With great power comes great responsibility. Remember that, MIT. Remember that.

A third useful property of spider silk (1)

AutumnLeaf (50333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700218)

Reproducing the elasticity and strength attributes would be great. It would be even cooler if the synthetic materials developed were also biodegradable.

Re:A third useful property of spider silk (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17700330)

Well I guess that would limit it to indoor applications..... :*S

Re:A third useful property of spider silk (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 7 years ago | (#17703818)

It would be even cooler if the synthetic materials developed were also biodegradable.

Except if it were, it would seriously impact the longevity of the product, rendering it useless for things like construction. Who wants a building that's going to fall apart in ten or twenty years because of bacteria eating it?

military applications (1)

drDugan (219551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700240)

"it is being monitored by military elements, keenly interested in applications of this material to front-line technologies"

I smell another 'non-lethal' crowd control option brewing.

"Keep them people down with webs, Private!"

Kevlar Replacement (4, Informative)

Freaky Spook (811861) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700374)

I was watching a show about 10 years into early research into this.

The biggest interest was extremley light weight bullet proof clothing.

The military would be very interested if they can get their infantry to loose several kilo's of body armour.

Re:Kevlar Replacement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17700664)

Dragonskin

Re:Kevlar Replacement (1)

javaxjb (931766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701480)

Well, that would not be the response of the USAF when Staff Sergeant Michelle Manhart appeared in loose clothing http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-kluger/the-nak ed-drill-sergeant_b_39035.html [huffingtonpost.com] (I like the line from the article, "Unfortunately for Manhart, the Air Force's top brass wasn't exactly titillated").

Re:Kevlar Replacement (1)

Simetrical (1047518) | more than 7 years ago | (#17703150)

I was watching a show about 10 years

Wow, you have a lot more patience for long TV shows than I do.

A many-splendoured thing (1, Interesting)

DarkIye (875062) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700348)

"This material, like lycra in many ways..."

Ok, I get that...

"...has a number of unique properties."

Wait. So, is it like lycra, or mostly unique?

Re:A many-splendoured thing (2, Funny)

sarahbau (692647) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700360)

Wait. So, is it like lycra, or mostly unique?
Like Lycra, only stickier?

Re:A many-splendoured thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17700444)

Sounds like it's like Lycra in many ways, but it still has a number of unique properties.

What about that is so hard to understand?

Re:A many-splendoured thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17703236)

"This material, like lycra in many ways..."
Ok, I get that...
"...has a number of unique properties."
Wait. So, is it like lycra, or mostly unique?
There is nothing contradictory in those two statements. If 90% of the material's properties match the behavior of lycra, that would qualify as "like lycra in many ways." If the other 10% are unique and found in no other material, I would say that is "a number of unique properties." Note, I have not RTFA and am just making up numbers to prove a point.

Lycra, Synthetic Spider Silk, Science Labs... (1)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700362)

If I hear anything about flying mini-gliders, I'm going to seriously freak...

Pravin Lal (1)

UrktheTurk (1026122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700422)

I don't think we should bother upgrading our troops until we've at least researched Photon Wall.

Re:Pravin Lal (1)

d4nowar (941785) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700628)

Silksteel alloys is a prerequisite to Photon/Wave Mechanics.

Does this mean we'll have Photon wall soon for our units-err-troops and give them a nice looking 5 for their armor rating?

Well (0, Redundant)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700544)

I, for one, welcome our new SpiderGeek overlords!

That be one of those 'scii-eence' thingamabobs (2, Funny)

kalpaha (667921) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700558)

I love the fact that no one understands the summary so everyone just tags the article as 'science'.

Re:That be one of those 'scii-eence' thingamabobs (2, Insightful)

scatter_gather (649698) | more than 7 years ago | (#17703478)

The alternative is to tag it as magic.

SilkSteel Alloys (3, Informative)

SMACX guy (1003684) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700680)

Until quite recently, spider silk had been the highest tensile strength of any substance known to man, and the name Silksteel pays homage to the arachnid for good reason.

Re:SilkSteel Alloys (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701560)

Until quite recently, spider silk had been the highest tensile strength of any substance known to man

This is of course utter bullshit. The advantage of silk is that it doesn't weigh much so the strength to weight ratio is good.

Re:SilkSteel Alloys (1)

cheese-cube (910830) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702568)

I looked at your user page and I have come to the conclusion that you are Sid Meier. I suggest for your next stint you refer to Monopole Magnets. You could work it into an article about the LHC and its fitting as SilkSteel Alloys is a prerequisite of Monopole Magnets.

structural cabling (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700774)

This would make a marvelous material for suspension bridges. It could drastically reduce the weight, which means that the foundations don't need to be as massive (read: expensive).

-jcr

Re:structural cabling (1)

nusuth (520833) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700938)

The article is light on details but it seems that they are using unmodified linear polyurethane as the polymer base. In that case, prolonged stretching (due to constant load) will lead to extension set, i.e. the polymer will no longer stretch back if the load is removed. It will also sag, as the "pulling" force will decrease over time. This material is probably suitable for intermittent loads only.

Not really spider silk but this is. (5, Informative)

billlion (101976) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700792)

This work at MIT is not really an attempt to make synthetic spider silk but just something with similar properties.

Spider silk is a kind made of protein and the feedstock is a liquid crystal

A company called Spinox Ltd (an Oxford University Spin off -- get it? ha ha ). Here is a note from a Smith Insitute workshop on the topic [smithinst.ac.uk] .

This group is actually trying to emulate what goes on in a spider (biomimetics). The big advantage is that it uses harmless ingredients and low temperatures. Compare for example Kevlar, the manufacture of which needs concentrated sulfuric acid. Spinox details [isis-innovation.com]

So what? (2, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702000)

The big advantage is that it uses harmless ingredients and low temperatures. Compare for example Kevlar, the manufacture of which needs concentrated sulfuric acid.


I'm not sure that's such an advantage. There's concentrated sulfuric acid in car batteries, people have been driving cars for a hundred years, how many people have suffered accidents from battery acid in that time? I mean, compared to overall accidents involving cars?


Industrial processes often involve nasty chemicals, at dangerous temperatures and pressures. That's no big deal, one can easily take all the necessary precautions. The problem is when the industrial process consumes a large amount of a limited resource, or when it generates a large amount of waste.

Re:So what? (1)

nusuth (520833) | more than 7 years ago | (#17702640)

GP is probably a troll. Making polyurethane requires phosgene. Sulfuric acid is far less dangerous.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17704184)

That's no big deal, one can easily take all the necessary precautions.

Funny, if its so easy, then why do so few companies take them? How many billions of dollars in refineries has BP blown up rather than maintaining their equipment? How many superfund sites out there are draining taxpayers wallets to clean up after companies who fled their responsibility to clean up after themselves? How many other sites are there where companies are hoping to wait as long as possible before just declaring bankruptcy and turning them into superfund sites?

Tailors rejoice (1)

chowdy (992689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17700960)

Spider silk boots [thottbot.com] will be easier to make.

Spider-Man VS Bear-Man (2, Funny)

SilentOneNCW (943611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701146)

Wow, looks like the U.S. Military will be faced with two options for next generation armour -- this and Troy Hurtubise's Anti-Grizzly Suit [wikipedia.org] . I wonder who would win in a fight to the death?

Re:Spider-Man VS Bear-Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17701388)

One is a design piece, the other a material. I'm sure they can find a way to play nice.

DARPA's Real Power-Armor Research (1)

Garrett Fox (970174) | more than 7 years ago | (#17701544)

Increase your odds for the suit -- its inventor upgraded it recently [slashdot.org] .

Seriously, DARPA has been working with MIT through the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies [mit.edu] to develop advanced armor, apparently including powered armor.

Re:DARPA's Real Power-Armor Research (2, Informative)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17703648)

Starship Troopers, here we come. I remember being very disappointed in the movie version of Heinlein's book, because I was hoping and expecting the Mobile Infantry to have Powered Suits, and really wanted to see what a modern special-effects team could do with the idea. As described by Juan "Johnny" Rico's character from the novel (source: Wikipedia):

Our suits give us better eyes, better ears, stronger backs (to carry heavier weapons and more ammo), better legs, more intelligence (in the military meaning...), more firepower, greater endurance, less vulnerability.

A suit isn't a space suit - although it can serve as one. it is not primarily armor - although the Knights of the Round Table were not armored as well as we are. It isn't a tank - but a single M.I. [Mobile Infantry] private could take on a squadron of those things and knock them off unassisted...

...Suited up, you look like a big steel gorilla, armed with gorilla-sized weapons.

The real genius in the design is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin.

The secret lies in negative feedback and amplification.

Merchandising... (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 7 years ago | (#17703564)

In addition to licensing the formula to chemical companies and manufacturers, the would make a hell of alot more by licensing to toy companie. THAT would be a huge sale during the next Spider Man release or Christmas season. The problems that happened during the Tickle Me Elmo ordeal would pale in comparison.
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