A post about spider silk might sound more like biology than electronics; and the strength of spider webs is the stuff of legend, as Spiderman fans will tell you. But recent research at Iowa State University by Xinwei Wang has raised some issues that might mean we need to rethink the pigeonholing.
His investigations of the silk produced by Nephila clavipes, golden silk orbweavers, found that the draglines that spiders use to anchor their webs conduct heat better, even, than silicon, aluminum and pure iron and, counter-intuitively, conductivity improves when web is stretched.
“New Secrets of Spider Silk: Exceptionally High Thermal Conductivity and its Abnormal Change under Stretching” is published online by the journal Advanced Materials.
The hope is that spider silk could be used to make flexible, heat-dissipating parts for electronics, along with a range of other goods where temperature control in limited space is an issue. Wang said the defect-free molecular structure of spider silk, including proteins that contain nanocrystals and spring-shaped structures connecting the proteins, are the keys to understanding the silk’s useful properties.
So if you’re working on something where thermal management is an issue don’t squish that spider in the corner, harness it.