Bio-Manufacturing: Spiders Key to underwater adhesive?

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Blog Written by: HutchHutchison, Principal, Technology & Engineering, FuzeHub
As you are aware, I am maintaining a vigil on the 11 Advanced Manufacturing Technologies that have been recommended for continual investigation by the President’s Council on Science and Technology. I came across this article, while searching on Bio-Manufacturing:
Spider Silk research
The Navy has invested in a project at Utah State University, to investigate spider webs, in particular piriform, that particular silk which the spider uses to anchor and glue the joints of the web. The Navy feels, since spiders build their webs near water, and in very humid environments, that the piriform may be the key to underwater adhesives. They will be investigating the properties, and look at how it could be synthesized and produced in significant quantities.
This type of biomimicry has been going on for several years. I recall my days at the University of Rochester’s Laser Laboratory, (where we were undertaking Laser Fusion Research as a means to provide inexhaustible energy) we had problems with the mounting of tiny glass balloons filled with Hydrogen gas, which was to be fused by the high power laser beams. As we would put a trillion watts of optical power onto sand-grain-sized capsules of hydrogen, the laser power would “wick” up the glass stalk which suspended the balloon in the vacuum chamber. The energy would be lost, and fusion would not occur. One of our lab technicians, in observing a spider web outside his window, wondered if the spider silk would be a suitable suspension material. After experimentation, and culture of a few spiders to build their webs in the laboratory, the first targets and various suspension designs were tested. At last, a solution was found that saved the day. Our productive spiders produced web silk that was used to successfully suspend the targets, sufficient energy was kept at play in the fusion experiment, and enough hydrogen atoms were fused to release a world-record number of energetic neutrons. We went on to be awarded the next step in Laser fusion: a larger, more powerful laser system that is still being used to further the fusion research.
Spiders – giving rise to a new industry that could create a lot of jobs?


4 thoughts on “Bio-Manufacturing: Spiders Key to underwater adhesive?”

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