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A Journal of Integrative Biology Spider Silk Aging: Initial Improvement in a High
 

Summary: A Journal of Integrative Biology
Spider Silk Aging: Initial Improvement in a High
Performance Material Followed by Slow Degradation
INGI AGNARSSON1,2, CECILIA BOUTRY1
, AND TODD A. BLACKLEDGE1
1
Department of Biology and Integrated Bioscience Program, The University of
Akron, Akron, Ohio
2
Department of Entomology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, District of
Columbia
ABSTRACT Spider silk possesses a unique combination of high tensile strength and elasticity
resulting in extraordinarily tough fibers, compared with the best synthetic materials. However, the
potential application of spider silk and biomimetic fibers depends upon retention of their high
performance under a variety of conditions. Here, we report on changes in the mechanical properties
of dragline and capture silk fibers from several spider species over periods up to 4 years of benign
aging. We find an improvement in mechanical performance of silk fibers during the first year of
aging. Fibers rapidly decrease in diameter, suggesting an increase in structural alignment and
organization of molecules. One-year old silk also is stiffer and has higher stress at yield than fresh
silk, whereas breaking force, elasticity, and toughness either improve or are unaffected by early

  

Source: Agnarsson, Ingi - Department of Biology, Universidad de Puerto Rico
Blackledge, Todd - Department of Biology, University of Akron

 

Collections: Biology and Medicine