Email Print Share
March 1, 2013

Spiders Spin Silks of Superhero Strength

The strength of a biological material such as spider silk lies in the specific geometric configuration of structural proteins. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department, in collaboration with San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) researcher Ross Walker, found that this structure is as strong as steel, even though the "glue" of hydrogen bonds that hold spider silk together at the molecular level is 100 to 1,000 times weaker than steel's metallic bonds.

This research was supported by an allocation of advanced computing resources supported by the National Science Foundation (TeraGrid, grant no. TG-MSS080030; NSF grants CMMI 06-42545 and MRSEC DMR 08-19762).

To learn more, see the TeraGrid 2010 Science Highlights story, "How Spiders Spin Silks of Superhero Strength," on page 10 Here. (Date of Image: March 2010)

Credit: Image courtesy of Ross Walker of SDSC, MIT and the Protein Data Bank; source: San Diego Supercomputer Center, UC-San Diego

Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation.

Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

Also Available:
Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (7.2 MB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.