29.07.16

Spider silk offers unique acoustic properties

diagram showing spider silk's unique acoustic properties found by university of rice

The latest phenomena in the world of sound may seem an unusual one: spider silk. Researchers at Rice University in Texas have discovered that the material spun by spiders has special acoustic properties which could potentially be used in the future development of thermal and sound insulation products.

The team of engineer and scientists studying the microstructure of the protein fibre spiders use to create webs and how they transmit phonons (otherwise known as quasiparticles of sound) found that the silk contains a phonon band gap. What does exactly does this mean? This shows that spiders are using this gap to block specific frequencies of phonon waves – the first biological material to be found to do this to date.

Speaking on the discovery, co-author of the research paper, Dean Edwin Thomas said: “Right now, we don't know how to do any of this in other macromolecular fibre materials," He added: "There's been a fair amount of investigation on synthetic polymers like nylon, but nobody's ever found a band gap."

It is thought the species uses these structures to only pick up certain sounds in its local environment, by spinning the silk a certain thickness and reducing particular frequencies. 

Looking the future, further research could lead to the development of synthetic materials that provide thermal and sound insulation, and possibly be tuned to target certain frequencies of sound.

Source: Science Daily