Using only water and pressure, researchers have developed a stretchable, flexible wire made of spider’s silk that is able to conduct electricity as well as copper—opening the door to new forms of artificial muscle.
The conductive threads are made from the dragline silk from the webs of common orb weaver spiders, which were chosen because they construct very large webs. The thread were mixed with dry nanotubes, dampened to encourage adhesion, and then pressed between a pair of Teflon sheets.
In stretch tests, the coated silk could extend up to 50 percent its original length without losing much conductivity. The thread also expanded when exposed to moisture, and, when a current was run through it, responded by heating up, drying out and shrinking by about 1 percent. It is this link with electricity that gives the thread applications as artificial muscles.
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