Category Archives: Spider Silk

We Are the 2018 Spider Silk Team

The 2018 Spider Silk Team is led by Wendy Welshans, who is assisted by Jason Epstein, a student researcher. The Spider Silk Team has a long history, which started in 1997 as an “accident” when a student silked a Golden Orb Weaver using nothing but his hands and a coke bottle! The program has since evolved to possess two groundbreaking patents to its name as well as becoming the life’s work of Wendy Welshans.

The Nephila Clavipes, common name Golden Orb Weaver, is native to the southern states in the United States of America as well as Latin America.  In fact, it is heavily present in Costa Rica, where the majority of the team’s research is done. Spider silk has many positive qualities: it does not cause immune responses when implanted in the human body– meaning the silk could be used for artificial tendons, tissue scaffolding, or even nerve regrowth; the Nephila’s silk is at least three times stronger than Kevlar, and more elastic– meaning silk could be used as ballistics protection (Cheryl Hayashi, 2010). To further attest to its strength, in 2017, the Spider Team conducted tensile strength testing of spider silk in 250 strand bundles, which are still functionally weightless but have an average of 6.21 Newtons, attesting to its strength.

The overall goal of the Spider Team, besides carefully documenting the amazing properties of one of the strongest natural fibers of the world, is to create a sustainable resource in the tropics of the rainforest that can replace cattle ranching. Harvesting spider silk would utilize land that would otherwise need to be destroyed. The Nephila spider must live in its natural habitat to produce quality silk. The flora in its home, however, is a veritable treasure trove as well. Interestingly, almost 25% of prescription drugs are made using ingredients derived from plants (James A. Duke, 1997), and yet only 1% of plants in the most biodiverse area on earth have been studied.  Preserving the rainforest allows for the study of potential life-saving drugs. Adoption of silking gives access to a valuable animal product as well as flora that can be worth more than gold.

The Forman Rainforest Project had its first official expedition in the spring of 1992. A year later in 1993, the arachnid project was introduced where student researchers studied Argiope spiders as well as the Golden Orb Weaver (Nephila Clavipes). Originally, the arachnid project focused on studying web anatomy and its construction. It was not until Bryan Sullivan (arachnid project 1997) and the “coke bottle incident” did spider silk itself pique interest: Bryan was handling a golden orb weaver when it laid a sticky disc– a sticky glob of silk that a spider drops to anchor its silk line– on Bryan’s hand and continued to let out dragline, the strongest type of silk the spider produces; Bryan started to wrap the silk around a coke bottle and noticed its incredible strength. It would not be until 2002 that the Forman Spider Team was officially founded.

The 2018 team has decided on three goals for agenda:

  1. The team will be collecting spider silk samples 4 feet/ 1.22 meters long of varying bundle sizes by working with Alex Newbury– resident in UMASS Medical School for Orthopedics– and Teleflex, a biomedical company, to conduct research using spider silk as suture materials and for use in repairing flexor tendons in the hand,
  2. The Spider Team will continue to be recording the tensile strength of spider silk as was done for the past 20 years. The goal of this research is to find the link between atmospheric conditions and the silk’s strength to answer the question: When is the silk secreted by spiders the strongest– at a certain temperature, or specific barometric pressure?
  3. In anticipation of spider silk becoming a valuable resource, the Team will be creating a working manual on how to silk spiders, including:
    1. People-to-spider ratio for maintaining efficiency
    2. Identifying different qualities of silk
    3. Providing methodology of silking the spiders
    4. Properly capturing, housing, and maintaining spiders.

 

METHODS::

Once the team lands in Costa Rica and everything is settled, a trek to El Plastico commences. The Spider Team collects the Nephila Clavipes in transit; the Nephila clavipes is plentiful in the area. The method employed in capturing the spiders resembles the hand placement one has in order to make a shadow puppet of a crocodile. A team member swiftly closes their hands around the spider. An important note is that the researcher should not be concerned about disturbing the web when apprehending the spider. Another thing to note is when collecting the spiders, the researcher needs only target the females, which are easily identified because they are much bigger than the males, of which there is usually one on the web. After apprehending the spider, the researcher simply traps them in a bag, typically the Spider Team uses an onion bag acquired in town. One should not worry about multiple spiders in the bag cannibalizing each other. It has has occurred that in the bag, one spider has eaten another, but they have been rare occurrences.

Once the Team arrives at El Plastico, it is important to immediately set the spiders in their habitat. At the El Plastico basecamp, there is a permanent habitat for the spiders constructed out of wood. It is simply open squares situated vertically. After a team member puts a spider in its own box, its instincts will take over and it should set up a web in that location without any further encouragement. A small note is that the male Nephila clavipes and smaller parasitic spiders will appear in the webs over time; however, this is normal. Mapping all the female spiders in the constructed habitat will be one of the most important tasks to set up the silking operation. Mapping allows to identify all of the spiders and where they are situated. It is important to record which spider was silked and at what time. The time of day and weather conditions at the time can greatly affect the silk quantity and quality. Also, the record is important because oversilking a spider can cause distress or even kill her, not to mention affecting the quality of silk.

This described method of silking should be observed closely, as this procedure has been shaped after almost two decades of the Spider Team’s trial and error.

  1. The first step of silking is removing the female spider from her web. It is important not to disturb the web. The method used is affectionately called the “Welshans’ Cage Method”. The researcher hovers their hand in front of a web, slowly moving it downward towards the spider. The Nephila’s instinct is to travel upwards, which is used to our benefit. The spider should attempt to travel over the researcher’s hand, it is at this point that the hand is gently closed around the spider. The Nephila clavipes is not aggressive, and will only bite if pinched or handled roughly. That being said, if bitten, the only effect will be local redness and swelling.
  2. The Nephila should be supported on the back of the hand, prompting her to lay a sticky disc– a type of silk used to anchor their dragline– in the hand of the handler. It is important to immediately place the sticky disc around the silkinator’s wheel. Using two hands, the handler should move their hands in a waterfalling motion, which tricks the spider in to thinking it is falling, thus stimulating it to continue to let out its silk.
  3. A second researcher should turn the silkinator’s crank. A bike odometer is used to count the number of rotations the wheel has made, which should under no circumstances exceed 350 in order not to overtax the spider. Once 350 rotations has been reached,or the spider stops silking on its own, it is returned to its own web. It is important not to directly handle the silk on the wheel, but to use forceps so as not to leave oils from the skin on the silk. The current version of the silkinator features collapsible rods, which makes removal much easier. The silk sample should be labeled and stored for later testing.

http://web.mit.edu/course/3/3.064/www/slides/Ko_spider_silk.pdf

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/golden_silk_spider.htm#life

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/beneficial-49_banana_spider.htm

https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1993/V2-664.html

2-https://www.adventure-life.com/amazon/articles/medicinal-treasures-of-the-rainforest 3-https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3358962/

more sources to cite- www.canadianpharmacymeds.com › … › Health Infographics

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Spider Silk 2016-2017 Report

The Effect of Combining Nephila clavipes Silk to find Correlations between Splicing with Fibers

By: Parker Broadnax, Logan Faucett, and Natalie Canterbury

Abstract

To date, spider silk is one of the world’s strongest natural fiber. It possesses outstanding feats of strength, all while staying extremely lightweight and flexible. These qualities are unmatched by other fibers, such as cotton or nylon and ounce per ounce is stronger than steel, giving it a wide variety of industrial applications. It’s value increases furthermore, since it is a renewable resource. The potential to utilise this resource is declining since spiders habit in Costa Rica is being threatened by deforestation. Many companies also use abusive methods to obtain this material, including pinning down the spider and forcibly pulling its silk. This paper studies the silk of Nephila clavipes in Costa Rica. The goal of the Forman Spider Silk Team is to further researching humane practices of spider silk extraction and to look at the strength of the silk when combined with other fibers. This study explores the change of spider silk’s strength when combined with wool, kevlar, hemp, nylon, cotton, and nylon monofilament.

Introduction

The 2017 Spider Silk team was led by Logan Faucett, Parker Broadnax, and Natalie Canterbury. (figure 1 from left to right Parker, Natalie, Logan, Wendy Welshans)  The Spider Silk team is entering its twenty first year of operation. Past research has included the economics of harvesting spider silk, designing enclosures for the spiders, and collecting/testing spider silk mega samples. The objective for this project is to incentivise spider silk as a valuable resource, discourage the destruction of the spider’s habitat through deforestation. The spider being looked at in this project  is the Nephila clavipes, more commonly known as the Golden Orb Weaver spider. Nephila clavipes silk is one of the strongest of the orb weavers spiders; however, they are one of the few with significantly strong silk that live together in colonies. These traits makes them an ideal choice for farming, and a very promising renewable resource.

The silk is extracted using the “silkinator,” a patented spider silk technology. The silkinator in past years has been a metal disk, with eight spokes welded around the circumference. The wheel is mounted onto a metal box, approximately 16 cm^3. A thin metal rod runs through the wheel and the box, enabling technicians to spin the wheel by cranking a handle. This year a new wheel (figure 2) was developed, a wheel that can collapse to allow the operators to easily remove the silk for testing.   The spider’s silk is attached onto the wheel, and it collects around the wheel as it turns. The specific silk the team is harvesting comes from the major ampullate gland, also known as dragline silk. This dragline silk is the strongest of all the spider’s natural silk glands (Hayashi, 2010).                                                                                                                                        

The Forman Spider Silk team is one of the few programs that practices the humane extraction of spider silk. Many other companies use questionable practices. A live spider is taped or even pinned to a board, while it’s silk is harvested (Adams, 2013). The consideration for the well being of the spider does not take away from any aspects of the efficiency or yield of silk collection.

Patents found in (figure 4), and (figure 5) represent Forman school’s first patents regarding the manual and mechanical extraction of spider silk. The patent found in (figure 6) represents a healthy and renewable structure to farm Nephila’s  for their silk.

Methods

The first step to farming is the mapping process the spider enclosure. Keeping a record of how many spiders there are, where they have constructed  webs, and tracking which spiders are silked when helps to ensure that the same spiders are not over silked. Mapping also records which spiders are fed. The mapping process removes the possibility of silking a spider more than once in any given day or over taxing a spider’s health.

At the time a session starts environmental factors are recorded using a portable weather station. The factors including time of day, collection date, temperature, dew point, barometric pressure, and wind speed. All are entered into a data table with specifications of the silk from that session. This will be used to look at correlations between strength of silk and whether or not certain conditions affected the silk.

Spiders live on their webs when they are not being silked and after a session is complete they are returned to the same web. In order to safely care for the spiders and their webs the use of a method that is described as the Welshans cage method is employed.

The Welshans cage method is the process of removing the spider from their web without harming the spider and damaging the web. The handler hovers their hand in front of the web, and going down ward stopping at the spider to corral the spider into their hand. It is the spider’s instinct to travel upwards and this is used as an advantage. It is extremely important not to touch the web. The spider will crawl into the open palmed hand.  Once this happens the handler will close their hand a small amount very gingerly as to simply cage the spider.      

After using this method to pick up the spider they are brought over to the station to begin silking. The handler will support the spider on the back of their hands, (figure 7) and once the spider has lain a sticky disc it will be plucked from the handler’s hand, and placed onto the wheel. Once the silk is around the wheel, the operator will begin collecting the silk. The amount of silk and the rate of silking is measured by a bike odometer.

Using this odometer data can be collected regarding rotations, speed of rotation, and then calculate collective feet gathered. Using (r = no. of revolutions)  Amount of silk in feet = r x 10/12”  to convert rotations to feet. The bike counter also needs to be set to the number 1500 to take into account the smaller wheel as opposed to that of one from an actual bicycle.

Once 250 rotations has been reached the spider is returned to its web and the operator then does one of two things. Either an operator combines the silk with one of six fibers that are being looked at or, starts to remove the silk for testing without being spliced. To remove silk with the new collapsible wheel it is first pushed together within ¼ (Figure 8) an inch using two probes carefully, as to maintain the quality. Following this the spinner then unscrews the pegs to allow them to collapse releasing the silk to be collected on these two probes. (figure 9) These probes with the silk around them are taken over to the field tensile lab to be tested.  

To combine the silk with fibers for testing, the operator starts from when silking has ended and spider has been returned to its web. From this step the silk is bunched together tightly on the wheel, taking note to maintain the quality of the silk. Fibers are broken down proportionally as shown in (table 1) Each fiber is cut at 22 inches long and then applied to the silk.

Table 1. Thickness for fibers tested with spider silk

(table 1)

Fiber type r thickness
Nylon 1/6
wool 1/4
hemp 1/4
kevlar 1/6
cotton 1/33
Nylon monofilament 1

With this fiber in one hand the operator begins to splice the fiber with the silk. Starting from the inside between two pegs it is twisted three times between each peg. Taking care full note not to stress the silk nor the fiber. After every three twist it is brought over once more in the same fashion yet making sure that it goes over the peg as to not create space between the silk and the fiber that would cause problems in the future. This step is repeated eight times for a total of 24 twist altogether. Then taking the two ends of the fiber the surgeon’s knot shown in (figure 10) is tied tightly as to have no excess space between the fiber and silk. From this point it is removed in the same fashion as before, by releasing the screws allowing the pegs to slide inward and taking two probes to transfer the spliced fiber and silk  to our field testing tensile lab.

The  Vernier Wireless dynamics sensor system (tensile lab), (figure 11) as stated is used to measure tensile strength, shown in Newtons (N). The silk is pulled by an actuator, at a constant speed giving us consistent data representative of the silks strength. This data is collected from the tensile lab and shown on a graph as force (N) over time (s). Example of Graph (figure 12) Shown is a graph of 250 rotations of pure spider silk with a reading of 19.8N.

 

Graph of spider silk, measured in force (N) over time (s)

This is an example of a sample of 250 strands of golden colored silk.

Equipment

  1. Two Silk Extractors- made out of aluminium
  2. Silkinator 2.0 (collapsible wheel )
  3. Tool Kit
  4. 1 meter Level
  5. Rite in the rain notebooks
  6. Flagging tape
  7. Duct tape
  8. Wrist rocket (slingshot)
  9. Black light
  10. Light meter
  11. Odometers (x5)
  12. Rubber bands
  13. Wool
  14. Kevlar
  15. Paracord
  16. Hemp
  17. Polyester
  18. Cotton
  19. Actuator (BMW car antenna)
  20. Vernier Scale
  21. Portable weather station

Results

Over the course of fourteen days, the team collected silk from forty five different Nephila clavipes spiders. In the twenty five trials that tested spider silk on its own, on average the strength of the silk measured 6.21 N.  Within the twenty-five trials with only spider silk, there was a standard deviation of 4.873. The silk of the Nephila clavipes was spliced with six different types of fibers: hemp, nylon monofilament, kevlar, wool and cotton. The control value of hemp measured 7.44 N and increased in strength by 321 percent once combined with spider silk reading 31.29 N. The control value of kevlar measured  5.58 N  and increased in strength by 427.5percent  when combined with the silk, measuring 29.429 N. The control value of  nylon monofilament measured  16.4 N and increased by 7.83percent once combined with silk which measured 17.69 N. The control value of  wool measured 4.57 N and increased by 229.76 percent once combined with the silk at 15.07 N. The control value of cotton measured 9.3 N and increased by 32.15 percent in strength once combined with the silk measuring 12.29 N. The control value for nylon measured 9.78 N and increased by -7.9 percent in strength once combined with the silk measuring 9.007 N. All of these measurements can also be seen in table 2, 3 and 4 as well as figure 4. Though these percent’s show interesting results, more sampling must be done to make any final conclusions.

Below the tables represent the strength of the fibers before splicing.

(Table 2) Control Strengths of Each Fiber in Newtons

Fiber type Newtons
Nylon 9.78
wool 4.57
hemp 7.435
kevlar 5.579
cotton 9.3
Nylon monofilament 16.4

 

(Table 3)Strength of Native Non-spliced Spider Silk Samples Tested

Fiber type Strength (N)
Spider silk 7
Spider silk 9.1
Spider silk 17.5
Spider silk 19.8
Spider silk 2.49
Spider silk 13.2
Spider silk 8
Spider silk 1.5
Spider silk 2.1
Spider silk 6.9
Spider silk 6.4
Spider silk 6.8
Spider silk 8.7
Spider silk 2.9
Spider silk 2.8
Spider silk 2.769
Spider silk 3.34
Spider silk 2.248
Spider silk 1.2
Spider silk 4.192
Spider silk 9.6
Spider silk 1.186
Spider silk 4.202
Spider silk 3.666
Spider silk 7.579

 

(Table 4) Strength of Spider Silk Combined with Fibers

Silk Combined With Fibers Strength in Newtons
Silk & nylon 9.78
Silk & wool 4.57
Silk & hemp 7.435
Silk & kevlar 5.579
Silk & cotton 9.3
Silk & nylon monofilament 16.4
Silk & cotton 15.07
Silk & hemp 24.072
Silk & wool 10.5
Silk & kevlar 23.85
Silk & nylon 8.234
Silk & nylon monofilament 18.97
Silk & cotton 12.5
Silk & hemp 34.07
Silk & hemp 35.75

 

 

(figure 15): Microscopic images hemp, kenaf, cotton, and polyester.
(Arenas & Crocker, 2010, p. 14)

 

Discussion

In the original hypothesis, it was predicted that the spider silk would increase the strength of all of the fibers equally. In this theory, the high modulus fibers would result in the strongest fiber when combined with the spider silk. However once the experiment was conducted, the spider silk proved to increase the strength of each fiber unequally. Nylon Monofilament was the strongest fiber on its own (16.4 N), even though it had one of the smallest amounts of growth (7.83 percent). On the other hand, hemp had the second largest growth (321 percent) despite being one the weaker fibers. It is predicted that this splice is as strong as it is do to the silk’s gossamer qualities mixing with hemp’s coarse and fibrous qualities. The increase in percent growth of tensile strength has a direct correlation to fibers with a rough and fibrous texture. The silk had better enhancement properties when it had a more opportunites to hook onto the fibers’ surface, making nylon monofilament a weak candidate. As seen in (figure 15), hemp has an extremely dense and bristly structure to ensnare the silk. For future research, combining spider silk with other fibrous materials like hemp and kevlar would potentially yield some significantly strong results. In addition, fibers with textures similar to hemp, such as kenaf, would make promising candidates for future spider silk splicing trials.

This year’s findings have led to a promising future for spider silk. The team has communicated with Alex Newbery, an alumnus of the project from 2005. Alex is currently finishing his M.D. as an orthopedic surgeon at Massachusetts Medical School he is exploring the use of spider silk in the orthopedic field. He is looking at the possibility of using spider silk to rebuild flexor tendons in the hand. Spider silk’s high tensile strength along with its antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, and biodegradable properties (Römer & Scheibel,2008), makes it perfect for a variety of orthopedic applications. He estimates that it will perform significantly better than the material that is currently used today. The team’s tests on the interactions between spider silk and nylon monofilament will contribute to Alex’s research.

References

Adams, T. (2013, January 12). Fritz Vollrath: ‘Who wouldn’t want to work with spiders?’. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/jan/12/fritz-vollrath-spiders-tim-adams

Arenas, J. P., & Crocker, M. (2010). Recent Trends in Porous Sound-Absorbing Materials. Sound & Vibration, 44(7), 12-17. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272151761_Recent_Trends_in_Porous_Sound-Absorbing_Materials

Ebbert, D., & Dietrich, W. (2016, May). Spider Silk: A Mega Year with Mega Findings.

Hayashi, C. (2010, February). The Magnificence of Spider Silk [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/cheryl_hayashi_the_magnificence_of_spider_silk

Römer, L., & Scheibel, T. (2008, November). The elaborate structure of spider silk. The elaborate structure of spider silk, 2(4), 154-161. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2658765/#R67

Acknowledgments

A special thanks to:

Naked Nuts

Patagonia

William Dietrich

 

Authorship

Robert Logan Faucett

Parker Durrah Brodnax

Natalie Rose Canterbury

Spider Silk

Abstract

To date, spider silk is the world’s strongest natural fiber. It possesses outstanding feats of strength, all while staying extremely lightweight and flexible. One strand of spider silk is one-tenth the thickness of a human hair, and its flexibility closely resembles that of thread. These qualities are unmatched by other fibers, such as cotton or nylon, giving it a wide variety of industrial applications. It’s value increases furthermore, since it is a renewable resource.The potential to utilise this resource is declining since the habitat of the many of these spiders are being threatened by deforestation. Many companies also use abusive methods to obtain this material, including pinning down the spider and forcibly pulling its silk. The team is traveling to Costa Rica to study the silk of the Nephila clavipes. The goal of the Forman spider silk team is to further research humane practices of spider silk extraction and to look at the strength of the silk when combined with other fibers. This study explores the change of spider silk’s strength when combined with Wool, Kevlar, Paracord, Hemp, Polyester, and Cotton. The spider silk and the other fibers are combined in five patterns: fishtail, Back Splice Tying, One handed surgical ligature, Distel Hitch, Child Swing.

 

Introduction

The 2017 Spider Silk team is led by Logan Faucett, Natalie Canterbury and Parker Broadnax. Spiders are not only global, but extraordinarily diverse. However this year’s spider of interest remains to be the Nephila clavipes. According to research done by the 2015 spider silk team, Nephila clavipes silk is an impressive 13.8 gigapascals.

 

The Forman Spider Silk team is entering its twenty first and final year of operation. Due to the fact that we would like to hand off our operations to a University that may be able to dedicate the time needed to move this project to its mission as a sustainable resource.  Past research has included the economics of harvesting spider silk, designing enclosures for the spiders, and collecting/testing spider silk mega samples. Our ultimate goal for this project is to incentivise spider silk as a valuable resource, discouraging the destruction of its habitat through deforestation. The spider being tested in this experiment is the Nephila clavipes, known in english as the Golden Orb Weaver spider. The Nephila clavipes silk is one of the strongest of the orb weavers spiders, however they are one of the few with significantly strong silk that can live together in colonies. The odd trend of this spider makes them an ideal choice for choice for cultivation, and a very promising renewable resource.

 

The silk is extracted using the “silkinator,” a patented spider silk technology. The silkinator is a metal disk, with eight spokes welded around the circumference. The wheel is mounted onto a metal box, approximately 16 cm^3. An thin metal rod runs through the wheel and the box, enabling technicians to spin the wheel by cranking a handle. The spider’s silk is attached onto the wheel, and it collects around the wheel as it turns.

 

The specific silk the team is looking at is the drag line. This drag line is the strongest of all the spider’s natural silk glands

 

The Forman Spider Silk team also one of the few programs that practices the humane extraction of spider silk. Part of our mission is to increase awareness to the  benefits of spider silk, however there many other companies that end up abusing the spider. These abusive practices on the spider include taping or even pinning a live spider to a board, while it’s silk is harvested to the spider’s exhaustion. The consideration for the well being of the spider does not take away from any aspects of the efficiency. One of our patents covers the enclosure of the Nephila clavipes, which keeps the spider healthy while enabling a regular silking process.

 

 

Methods

First, spiders are mapped in a waterproof notebook in order to keep track of where each spider is. The mapping process involved sketching different sections of colonised spiders. Each spider is represented by a dot, then numbered in the order in which they are extracted for that day. The mapping process removes the possibility of silking a spider more than once in any given day.

 

The spider is taken off of its web using the (Welshans cage method) and brought over to silk lab station to start silking. The spider will lay a sticky disc which is like an anchor to the handler’s hand. Attached to that sticky disc is the drag line that we will then wrap around the wheel. Once the silk is around the wheel, we begin collecting the silk. The amount of silk and the rate of silking is measured by a bike odometer. The diameter of the silkinator is entered into the odometer, and information is gathered as the magnet passes through the reader. The devices calculate speed in kilometers per hour and amount of spider silk gathered is measured in meters.

 

The spinner will then take the silk off the wheel that we’ve extracted (usually around 225 feet). Using metal probes and gloves to minimize the possibility of getting oils from their fingers onto the silk. This helps reduce variables so our data becomes more reputable and useful. To avoid harming the spider, silking stops when the spider cuts its own line and or stopped at 225ft to eliminate the possibility of over silking the spiders.

 

Environmental factors that the silk was exposed during extraction is recorded by a portable weather station. The factors including Time, Date, Precipitation, Barometric Pressure, Wind, are all entered into a data table. This will be helpful when analyzing data from the silk alternate fiber blend. After all, if we took the time to extract over 85 spiders, we would need to have a way to analyze the data so we can infer why it is that one spider’s silk was stronger than another. We can then begin to find correlations.

 

The silk is taken from the extractor and attached by a hook on the Vernier Wireless dynamics sensor system (tensile lab), to measure its tensile strength. The silk is pulled lby an actuator at a constant speed giving us a consistent data representative of the silks strength. This data is collected from the tensile lab and shown on a graph as force (N) over time (s).

 

Equations/Conversions:

(r = no. of revolutions)

Amount of silk in feet = r x 10/12

This equation takes the number of revolutions that the extractor’s wheel is spun and is converted to a number which represents the amount of silk collected in feet.

The bike counter also needs to be set to the number 1700 to take into account the smaller wheel as opposed to that of one from an actual bicycle.

(Courtesy of the 2015 Spidersilk team)

 

The Vernier scale maximum capacity is fifty Newtons.

 

Fishtail

The spider silk is made into a “fishtail braid” by hand based on the reference given by www.totalbeauty.com.

1. Create a ponytail. Split the ponytail into two even sections.

  1. Pull a half-inch strand of hair from the outside of the left section. Cross it over to the right side.
  2. Now pull a half-inch strand of hair from the outside of the right section. Cross this piece over to the left side.
  3. Continue steps 2 through 3 all the way down to the end of your pony. Secure your braid with an elastic. Remove the elastic at the base of your neck by carefully cutting it off with scissors.
  4. Finish your braid by gently tugging it along the sides. This will loosen the braid to make it look perfectly undone.”

Individual fishtail braids will be made from spider silk and one of the following fibers: wool, kevlar, paracord, hemp, and polyester.” After a braid of the two fibers is made (e.g. Spider silk and wool), the resulting product is tested on the tensile lab. The braid is pulled by the actuator until the fiber fails, and it’s tensile strength is recorded onto the spider silk computer via the logger Pro software. The process is repeated until all fibers have been twisted together and a fishtail braid.

 

Back Splice

The spider silk is made into a “back splice” based on the the instructions given by animatedknots.com. Five individual back splices will be made from spider silk and the tested fibers: wool, kevlar, paracord, hemp, polyester. The splice of the two fibers (e.g. Spider silk and wool) is done with the splicing kit based on the reference given by animatedknots.com. “Form a Crown Knot by passing each strand over its neighbor and then tighten the knot. Splice each strand into the rope by passing it over and under alternate strands in the standing end. Complete a second and a third set of tucks to complete the back splice.The resulting product is tested on the tensile lab. It is pulled by the actuator until the fiber fails, and the tensile strength is recorded onto the spider silk computer via the Logger Pro software. The process is repeated until all fibers have been spliced

 

One handed surgical ligature

The spider silk is made into a “one handed surgical ligature” based on the the instructions given by animatedknots.com. “With your index finger hook the long end. Pull the short end under it and through. Hook it again and pull the short end through. Tighten the Half Knot. Lay the short end, then the long end, over your hand. With your middle finger hook the long end. Pull the short end under it and through. Pull tight to complete the Ligature.” Five individual ligatures will be made from spider silk and the tested fibers: wool, kevlar, paracord, hemp, polyester). After a braid of the two fibers is made (e.g. Spider silk and wool), the resulting product is tested on the tensile lab. It is pulled by the actuator until the fiber fails, and the tensile strength is recorded onto the spider silk computer via the logger Pro software. The process is repeated until all fibers have been twisted together into a one handed surgical ligature.

 

Distel Hitch

The spider silk is made into a “distel hitch” based on the following instructions from animatedknots.com. “Use a lanyard with an eye at each end. Wrap the longer end around the climbing rope to make two Half Hitches. Then continue around and through the top Half Hitch three more times. Balance the lengths and pull tight. Attach the carabiner.” Five individual hitches will be made from spider silk and the tested fibers: wool, kevlar, paracord, hemp, and polyester. The hitch of the two fibers (e.g. Spider silk and wool), is done by hand. The resulting product is tested on the tensile lab. It is pulled by the actuator until the fiber fails, and the tensile strength is recorded onto the spider silk computer via the logger Pro software. The process is repeated until all fibers have been joined together to make a Distel Hitch.

 

Child Swing

The spider silk is made into a “child’s swing” based on the the instructions given by animatedknots.com.“Attach each main rope to the branch of the tree using a running bowline. Thread one rope under one edge of the seat and tie a temporary figure 8. Thread the other rope under the other edge and tie it with three Half Hitches. Untie the Figure 8 and attach it also with three Half Hitches.” Five individual back splices will be made from spider silk and the tested fibers: wool, kevlar, paracord, hemp, polyester. After a braid of the two fibers is made (e.g. Spider silk and wool), the resulting product is tested on the tensile lab. It is pulled by the actuator until the fiber fails, and the tensile strength is recorded onto the spider silk computer via the logger Pro software. The process is repeated until all fibers have been twisted together into a “child swing.”

 

The tensile strength trials are sorted in the table labeled “Tensile strength of various fibers over different braid.”

 

Materials

 

  1. Four Silk Extractors- made out of aluminium
  2. Silkinator 2.0
  3. Tool Kit
  4. Level ruler
  5. Rite in the rain notebooks
  6. Flagging tape
  7. Duct tape
  8. Wrist rocket (slingshot)
  9. Black light
  10. Light meter
  11. Odometers (x5)
  12. Rubber bands
  13. Wool
  14. Kevlar
  15. Paracord
  16. Hemp
  17. Polyester
  18. Cotton
  19. Splicing kit
  20. Nitrile Gloves (disposal gloves)
  21. Actuator (BMW car antenna)
  22. Vernier Scale
  23. Portable weather station

 

Data Tables

Tensile strength of each individual fiber type (controls)

Fiber Types Strand Count Tensile strength (Gigapixels)
Kevlar
Wool
Paracord
HMPE (High- Modulus Polyethylene)
Polyester
Ethicon
Cotton
Hemp
Spider silk (silk of the Nephila)

 

Tensile strength of various fibers combined into different weaves (braids)

Fiber Types Width Fishtail Back Splice Tying One handed surgical ligature Distel Hitch Child Swing
Kevlar
Wool
Paracord
HMPE
Polyester
Ethicon
Cotton
Hemp
Spider silk (silk of the Nephila)

 

Environmental conditions of spider silk:

Date Time Temp Humid Rainfall Wind Direction Spider Name/Number Time of Session Number of rotations Color of Silk

 

Sources:

 

 

The Foundation of A Sustainable Industry With Spider Silk

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Abstract:

The mission of the 2015 spider silk team was to establish a fair trade between local farmers in Costa Rica & a new sustainable industry. The project revolves around not only a spider with one of the strongest extractable biofibers, but one that lives in colonies. This spider is called the Nephila Clavipes, more commonly known as the Golden Orb Weaver. The project has disproved the theory that Golden Orb Weavers are not able to live in harmony, debunking many scientist’s assumptions. It has also been discovered that these spiders are able to be extracted in mass quantities. By the end, the spider silk team of 2015 got in conversation with a few corporations like 3M, Earth University and the Sustainability Lab in the hopes to work alongside them for further research.

Introduction:

The Golden Orb Weaver, universally known by its Latin name Nephila Clavipes, is well known for their ability to spin spider silk that is very flexible, tough and lightweight. They produce one of the strongest natural fibers in the world and their silk has huge potential to be used industrially and commercially. The silk can be used for many purposes, such as bullet proof clothing, wires, fishing lines, bungee cords, nets, surgical threads and artificial ligaments. The goal of the 2015 spider silk team is to extract and harvest the spider’s silk, using a patented wheel extractor, to collect measurements and data for future use by the public.

The Nephila Clavipes species is the only one of the Nephila genus located in the Western hemisphere. They tend to prefer areas with high humidity, and can often be found in forests. They are mostly orange or yellow, and have long abdomens with feathery legs extending out from them. The female spiders can be significantly bigger than the male spiders, being at least 5 to 6 times larger than males in size. When in their natural habitat, the Golden Orb Weavers like to spin large amounts of their silk to create huge and finely meshed orb webs. These webs are typically constructed as a form of defense or protection against predators. They can span 1 or 2 meters, and are commonly situated a few meters above ground. It is also a way for the spiders to catch their prey of small flying insects, which they end up incapacitating and taking back to their hub on the web.

The 2015 spider team went to Costa Rica with the goal of gathering as much data and numbers within the short two week time span to send into various corporations for testing and analyzing.

Materials and Methods:

Before the extraction can begin, the odometer needs to be set at 1700 rotations. This allows the amount of silk extracted to be recorded.

To then begin the extraction, one first needs to safely take the spider off of her web & bring her over to the extraction wheel. One then holds the spider until she lays a sticky disc on the arm of the person extracting. This should take well under a minute. After the spider lays her sticky disc, the sticky disc is be pulled off & placed on the wheel of the extractor. The second person begins to turn the wheel with the handle, at a rate between six & seven miles per hour. This rate is the most efficient because it allows the spider to have the sensation like it were falling, but also not too fast that the spider will cut its drag line. As the first person handles the spider, the second person continues to spin the wheel around two hundred and fifty to three hundred rotations.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.46.59 AM.png

This amount allows the spider to give a sufficient amount of silk, but not too much that it is going to harm the spider or cause a decline in the quality of the silk.

Once the spider silk is extracted, it needs to tested for its tensile strength. The equipment comprises of a glacier computer hooked a wireless sensor system, which measures the pull of the silk in Newtons. The software that collects the data and graphs the peak is called the Logger Pro. It calculates where the silk breaks off when it is pulled by the attenuator.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.46.32 AM.png

Results:

The Forman Rainforest Project holds two patents relating to spider silk. The first one is the patent on our extraction. This is for our procedure and methods of reinforcing a fiber with spider silk. It involves manual extraction, mechanical extraction and into a direct weave.

Wheel to wheel

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.45.42 AM

Direct Weave

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.45.46 AM

By having this patent, we protect this species of spider from being exploited. The second patent is on farming the spiders silk. This patent includes the methods for setting up the perfect living environment for the spiders to build their webs.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.45.21 AM

The sketch shows a building with a drop light in the center to draw in the insects. Frames on the outside for spiders to build their webs and an eave that protects the webs during heavy rains. Basically we have eliminated crucial limiting factors. That may affect their longevity and coax them to stay.

Doctor Swanson is a well renowned scientist whose area of expertise is the strength of spider silk. According to his data, the average strength of a nephila’s silk is 13.8 gigapaxels. The Forman School had tested their spider silk at Tuft’s University by a professor, and he found that the silk tested at a low of 11.8 gpas & an extremely impressive high of 22.7 gpas. The spider silk’s results tested in the higher percentile compared to Swanson’s data.

The elasticity of Swanson’s data was 17.2%, which  the silk stretched 17.2% beyond its original length. The Spider Silk team’s results stretched 16% all the way up to 22% of its original length. Our bundles of spider silk stretched up to 40%.

Raw Data – Important raw data should be included in a supplementary Data section. This allows readers and reviewers to judge how you used your data.

Figures/Tables/Graphs:

This graph shows the tensile strength of the spider silk graphed on the y-axis and the temperature is graphed on the x-axis.
Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.43.49 AM

This graph shows the temperature (green line) and the strength (blue line), but on two different lines. It can seen that as the temperature goes down, the strength goes up.
Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.44.32 AM

Equations/Conversions:

(r = no. of revolutions)

Amount of silk in feet = r x 10/12

This equation takes the number of revolutions that the extractor’s wheel is spun and is converted to a number which represents the amount of silk collected in feet.

The bike counter also needs to be set to the number 1700 to take into account the smaller wheel as opposed to that of one from an actual bicycle.

Statistical Analysis:

According to the data collected, the ideal temperature for silking the spiders is 72.8 to 83.6 ºF, while the ideal barometric pressure is 27.99 to 28.14 hectopascals (hPa).

Discussion:

After this year’s research, the 2015 spider silk team has made the efforts to partner up with someone for discovering a possibility with making the Nephila’s silk marketable. Some of the questions that the team attempted to answer this year were: whether there was a correlation to barometric pressure or temperature; whether there were negative or positive environmental impacts of extracting spider silk; how spider silk could be made into a sustainable resource, as well as whether it could be turned into a cottage industry; what is the minimal amount of spider silk that equals profit?.

References:

Doctor Swanson

Cheryl Hayashi TED talk video

 

Acknowledges:

Wendy Welshans

 

Authorship:    

Addison Keilty

Tristan Jeyaretnam

Gordon Wilson

2016 Spider Silk Team

Greetings! We are the 2016 Spider Silk Team! Our names are Will Dietrich ’16 and Davis Ebbert ’16, and we are very excited about our project. Currently, we are researching everything available about spider silk and hope to discover more on our own.

The newest update regarding spider silk involves a company named The North Face. This company is well known in the sport adventure industry and creates winter jackets from which any ametur or professional can benefit. This new product has been named the “Moon Parka.” North Face, as well as many other companies, have given in to the global craze over spider silk. This is because it is one of nature’s stretchiest and strongest materials known to mankind. Spiber Technologies has been working with North Face extensively and has helped them create this new product. By isolating the gene responsible for the production of fibroin and introducing it to a bioengineered bacteria, the new product is an artifical silk that can be collected and spun. Spiber Tech mentioned in a statement that they developed this product with the thought in mind that most sports apparel out in the world creates harmful greenhouse gases and creating a product that is renewable is very important to society.

The difference between spider silk and biotech artificial silk is enormous. The strength of natural silk from the nephila clavipes spider cannot be replicated in any lab and is immensely stronger than artificial biotech. Spider silk from nephila clavies is [200%] stronger than synthetic silk and hold the record as the strongest natural fiber known to man. In short, natural silk is more impressive than biotech. What that really means is that the silk that our team extracts in the field will be better than any artificial spider silk project out there to date. Biotech silk involves the introduction of bioengineered material to the natural silk to try and create the toughest fiber known to man. That being said, the fiber our team extracts still holds the record for the strongest natural silk known worldwide. This has been tested by Tufts University and all silk has been found both credible and valuable.

We work with nephila clavipes spider, which holds the record as the strongest natural fiber known to man. We have developed a patented method for extracting spider silk and then test is elasticity. Last year’s Spider Silk Team set a new strength record when testing spider silk strength and elasticity. This year, we hope to beat that record and rebuild our spider farm down in Costa Rica.

Our plan is to take our team of trained field biologists down to the Costa Rican Rainforest and extract more natural fiber than we could even imagine. Last year, the Spider Silk Team extracted nearly 35,000 feet of fiber, and this year we are determined to take silking to the next level. We will practice silking spiders in the classroom prior to arriving in Costa Rica; that way we will be more than ready to take this year’s production to new heights. We will be stress testing all silk produced, and importing all data into a Glacier Computer (military grade laptop). This information will give us an idea as to the tensile strength of the silk and how the silk has matched up to previous spider silk extractions.

We will be keeping you updated with our progress in the coming months and we are excited to share what learn and discover.

Procedure for Spider Silking

Equipment

  1. Four Silk Extractors- made out of aluminium
  2. Tool Kit
  3. Level ruler
  4. Windshield wiper battery
  5. Spider collection jars
  6. Rite in the rain notebooks
  7. Flagging tape
  8. Duct tape
  9. Slingshot
  10. Black light
  11. Light meter
  12. Bike counters
  13. Rubber bands

Procedure for Spider Silking

The spider silk extractor is one of Forman School’s own patented design, consisting of three parts to it; this comprises of the box itself, the wheel and the handle for spinning the wheel. Everything is stored away in the confinements of the box whilst unused, but when needed for the extraction process, the pieces of this contraption is assembled together.

Now that the new spider silking mechanisms have arrived, fully remade into aluminum, we can begin a proper and more sophisticated method of extracting the silk from the Nephila Clavipes. There will be no more warping in the wood and everything will become more solid and accurate, which will aid in getting precise data.

Because extracting web from a golden orb weaver is a very delicate process, people involved are designated jobs. The first person, denoted as A, handles the spiders and does the collecting of the spider silk. The second person, denoted as B, spins the wheel on the extractor to ensure the collection. The third person, denoted as C, records all the data on a notebook, as well as a glacier computer.

  1. Person A transports the spider from its web to the location of extraction, using cupped hands so as to not harm the spider
  2. Person C uses the light meter to measure the amount of lumens hitting the silk. The spider’s number, the time of day, and other variables that can factor the silking are also recorded.
  3. The spider is brought to the wheel of the silk extractors, and is prepared to release it’s webbing by allowing the spider to create the sticky disc on Person A’s hand. The sticky disc allows the spider to attach itself to the hand of Person A while it releases its fiber for the extractor to collect the silk.
  4. Person B starts spinning the wheel using the handle whilst Person A guides the spider with his hands as the silk is being produced, and does this for about 2 to 3 minutes. This timeline allows the spider to release enough fiber, but will not over exhaust the spider.
  5. Once done, the spider is released by Person A safely on its web and back to its colony.
  6. The spider silk is then cut off with scissors. The spider silk will then be tested for its tensile strength. It will be tested with a homemade field tensile lab
  7. The data is then recorded. This includes temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall and dew point.

Improved Silk Extractors

After receiving all our Patagonia gear, one of our team members father, Mr. Farrell, who is a professional metallurgist, stopped by to take a look at our silk extractors in preparation for converting four of our silk extractors into metal. Thanks to him, our silk extractors will improve dramatically, as there will be no more warping in the wood and everything will become more solid and accurate.  And the best part is that it will all be professionally modified to enhance their performance when extracting the silk from the Nephila clavipes.

Terrence Farrell, Farrell Precision Metal Craft Corp.

Thank You Patagonia!

Thanks to you we have great gear!

From early mornings with the bird team to late nights with the Reptiles & Amphibians team, we will be trapping, recording, and doing research in the driest and warmest possible way.

Silk Extractors

For the past couple weeks, we’ve been inspecting our inventory of research equipment. The team has decided on the three silk extractors that we will to bring to Costa Rica — and we are planning on building a fourth. During that time, we have also done the tensile strength lab with the spider silk, and practiced using the glacier computer. We can’t wait to get down to the rainforest!

Spider Silk Team of 2014-2015

Spiders, universally known as the Golden Orb Weavers, are known for their ability to spin spider silk that is very flexible, tough and lightweight. They produce one of the strongest natural fibers in the world and their silk has huge potential to be used industrially and commercially. The silk can be used for many purposes, such as bullet proof clothing or artificial ligaments. The 2014-2015 Spider Silk team is Tristan Jeyaretnam, Gordon Wilson and Addie Keilty. Our goal is to extract and harvest the spider’s silk, using a patented wheel extractor, to collect measurements and data for future use by the public.