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Science Technology

For Super-Tough Spider Silk, Just Add Titanium 53

A team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Germany has been experimenting with ways to infuse biopolymers with different kinds of metals. Finding some success with their tests on spider silk, the team was able to improve the tensile strength of the fibers, increasing the amount of energy required to break a strand as much as ten times. "Spider silk is not a practical engineering material, but materials scientists are trying to produce artificial fibers that mimic its properties. If they succeed, the result could be super-tough textiles. Knez thinks the technique has more immediate potential for toughening other biomaterials such as collagen. 'Mechanically improving collagen using our technique might open several new possible applications, like artificial tendons.'"
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For Super-Tough Spider Silk, Just Add Titanium

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  • Just ask Peter Parker. He can get you a sample of Spideman's webbing, and problem solved.
  • by severoon ( 536737 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @06:37PM (#27793659) Journal
    ...does whatever a troller can. Spins a lie, any size, catches n00bs, just like flies, LOOK OUT! Here comes the troller man.
  • wait. isn't anything with the word "instant" in have alot of calories and salt.

    • by Rigrig ( 922033 )

      Not necessarily: Dihydrogen Monoxide (the main ingredient of 'Instant water - just add water') can be unhealthy for you in entirely different ways.

      (DHMO is also one of the main ingredients of beer, which might explain this post to me when I sober up)

    • Ever tried to eat a super spider web? I bet it's sticky and gummy. On the plus side, though, you don't have to floss afterwards.
  • titanium enriched bugs and stuffs.

  • How? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    How do I shot web?
    • With a rifle, a handgun, or a bow/arrow. Of course a shotgun will likely hit the web, if you just want to shoot it.

      But you are asking about how to shot web, hmmmm.
  • The one with the vocal group theme song that goes, "Spiderman, Spiderman..." There was a scene where the Rhino charges, and Spiderman holds him back with a web across the street. He says something like, "It's a little special formula of mine...Concentrated Steel!"

    But infusing collagen with titanium opens up the possibility of augmented super-soldiers like Nuke from Daredevil. "He's got a variety of plastics in his skin. Doesn't burn easy..." Collagen is a major component of skin. What color is titaniu

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      What color is titanium when you mix it with flesh?

      It would most likely be bright white, like titanium dioxide. So the super-soldiers of the future will look like they've been doused in suntan lotion.

    • The movies really lost something when they changed the web goop from something Parker creates into something he excretes. eww.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Fyi, there are many differently-colored copper compounds and even more iron compounds. Iron is especially versatile because of its different oxidation states.

      So anyways, TiO2 is white, but it is not something your body could use- it is as inert as glass, basically. simply injecting it into the skin would do nothing except maybe cause some local psoriasis. Getting Ti into the organic side of things would usually require TiCl4, which is colorless, or an ester of Ti (also colorless). TiCl3 is dark red but agai

      • TiCl4 is colorless? Then the show would be more like Alias.

        FOX news and Pinnacle Armor? I think of that crowd versus Cartoon Network and Cosplay outfits.

  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @06:53PM (#27793813) Journal

    For now, they're just coating existing webs with a thin film of titanium oxide. Soon, some bright scientist will have the wonderful idea of "hey, if we can just genetically modify the spiders to metabolize titanium and use it in building webs..."

    Then the slashdot tags WhatCouldPossiblyGoWrong and IForOneWelcomeOurNewInsectOverlords will be back in vogue.

    [Yes, I know spiders are arachnids and not insects. Remember, I'm talking about a SLASHDOT tag, okay?]

    • For now, they're just coating existing webs with a thin film of titanium oxide. Soon, some bright scientist will have the wonderful idea of "hey, if we can just genetically modify the spiders to metabolize titanium and use it in building webs..."

      I wish I could find the article, but in that same vein, some scientists were looking at the structure of some microscopic organism's shell and thought "hey, if it can make this cool shell out of organic stuff, lets try feeding it [metal] and see what happens!" Much to their delight, the organism ate up the metal with no problem and used it to build a very complex and strong shell, which can now be used as a nanomaterial (IIRC).

      I seriously doubt it'll be that easy with spiders, but the idea isn't that outlan

  • Forget titanium (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HTH NE1 ( 675604 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @07:01PM (#27793861)

    How about using a coltan [wikipedia.org] alloy instead?

    --John Henry

  • Nexia (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Baby Duck ( 176251 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @07:07PM (#27793915) Homepage

    Nexia Biotechnology used to breed genetically modified goats that produce Golden Orb spider silk proteins in their milk glands. They would milk the goats like normal, sift the proteins out, and then mechanically spin the threads. They wanted to use it for medical sutures, bullet-proof vests, and stuff like that. They eventually wanted to genetically modify plants they could just grind up to get the proteins out of their leaves.

    Anyway, I lost $1000 investing in that company. Seems NANOTUBES could do everything the spider silk could do, only better, and possibly in even more applications.

    • Seems NANOTUBES could do everything the spider silk could do, only better, and possibly in even more applications.

      Plus nanotubes aren't incredibly creepy.

      • Re:Nexia (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Friday May 01, 2009 @07:44PM (#27794193)

        You mean creepier than adding bacteria and calf stomach-juices to goat milk, letting it stand in the heat until all the milk has transformed into some bacteria-digested firm mass, and then eatin that mass, including the bacteria??

        Maybe you should try making your own food for a change. And without combining a bunch of industrial-strength chemicals. ^^

        • I would be incredibly disgusted by that if I didn't already know that quantitatively there are more genetically-unrelated organisms in a given human being than that person's own genetically-related cells. Without micro-organisms our digestive tract wouldn't even work, and so micro-organisms working over things like cheese is little more than external pre-digestion. (For that matter so is cooking, which anthropological studies have been linking to be one of the more significant factors in the transition of e
          • Well, see the human body as a country. Of course there are foreigners in it. And some time in the past, everything was foreign. Some foreigners are bad. But most are good. Or they do the dirty jobs. Sounds like a pretty cool and well working system. Better than our countries for sure. :)

            Although it would be strange, if our cops would just eat criminals, who themselves would breed like crazy. ^^

            About the cooking/fermenting: As long as you do not kill every vitamin and protein in it, or refine stuff until it'

        • You're talking to the wrong guy. I'm vegan. Seriously.

  • Oblig. (Score:4, Funny)

    by tcolberg ( 998885 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @07:48PM (#27794215)
    I, for one, welcome our eventual titanium web building, eight-legged overlords.
    • "Until quite recently, spider silk had the highest tensile strength of any substance known to man, and the name Silksteel pays homage to the arachnid for good reason." -- Commissioner Pravin Lal, U.N. Scientific Survey, on the discovery of Silksteel Alloys
  • For kisses that last all night.

    Also helpful for those folks that catch bullets in their mouth I suppose.

  • We can we get started on that space elevator?
  • Let me get this straight - they're infusing a super-strong metal into biological organisms. Why, oh why does this sound familiar???

    Let's just hope they don't give the silkworms claws....

  • Imagine and even lighter weight shirt made of titanisilk. Frodo would be even safer from an orc blade.

  • well.... (Score:2, Funny)

    by salesbot ( 1524011 )
    or just add lithium and get over yourself.
  • Invisibly thin razor wire for guerrilla warfare. And plenty other applications for an ultra durable flexible material.
  • If only Alec Guinness could see this!

In 1869 the waffle iron was invented for people who had wrinkled waffles.