Scientists will try all sorts of crazy things in order to find that next breakthrough. For example, Nicola Pugno of the University of Trento, Italy decided to see what would happen if they combined one the strongest natural materials – spider’s silk – with one of the strongest synthetic materials – graphene.
In a series of experiments, Pugno and his team gathered spiders from the Pholcidae family. Five of these spiders were sprayed with a water/graphene mixture while ten others were sprayed with water/nanotubes to see if, or how the spider’s silk would be changed.
Surprisingly, the graphene wasn’t quite as successful as the carbon nanotubes, though one of the nanotube sprayed spiders did achieve impressive results. The spider actually produce silk that was 3.5 times stronger than the strongest recorded silk produced by any type of spider. The scientists aren’t exactly sure how this material made its way into the silk. Some hypothesize that the nanotubes coat the outside of the silk, though Pugno believes that in order to account for the added strength it’s more likely that the spiders somehow incorporated their surroundings into the formation of the web. Either way, this coating didn’t seem to be what was best for the spiders, several of them died shortly after being sprayed.
Undeterred, the scientists hope to move their research over to silkworms, spraying them with unusual stuff to see what happens. Next they’ll just need to figure out how to get these souped-up silkworms to bite someone. They might need some radiation first though, wouldn’t want to mess up Spider-Man’s origin story.