"Super Silk:" Silk That's Strong Enough to Catch a Falling Plane
Spider-Man is famous for saving damsels in distress and flying from building to building using the super-strong webs he shoots from his wrists. This superpower is no longer fictitious, thanks to Italian researchers who have worked to create spider silk that's reportedly strong enough to catch a falling plane.
While they haven't yet figured out how to create a real-life Spider-Man, scientists at the University of Trento in Italy have discovered that spraying water combined with graphene or carbon nanotubes on spiders causes the arachnids to spin "super silk"–silk that's stronger than any known fiber. Discovered in 2004, graphene is a relatively new material. It's only as thick as an atom but extremely strong and very light, making it ideal for a number of industrial purposes.
Spider silk in itself is quite tough and ductile–in fact, it's as strong as high-grade alloy steel.Today's spider silk is the result of 400 million years of evolution at work, so an improvement on such a longstanding piece of nature is interesting to say the least.
Scientists still have a number of challenges to overcome before we can start catching falling airplanes–for example, there still isn't an efficient way to harvest spider silk. However, the possibilities of the application of "super-silk" are abundant, ranging from fabric design to tissue repair.