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.
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.
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).
(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.
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.
- Pull a half-inch strand of hair from the outside of the left section. Cross it over to the right side.
- Now pull a half-inch strand of hair from the outside of the right section. Cross this piece over to the left side.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.”
- Four Silk Extractors- made out of aluminium
- Silkinator 2.0
- Tool Kit
- Level ruler
- Rite in the rain notebooks
- Flagging tape
- Duct tape
- Wrist rocket (slingshot)
- Black light
- Light meter
- Odometers (x5)
- Rubber bands
- Splicing kit
- Nitrile Gloves (disposal gloves)
- Actuator (BMW car antenna)
- Vernier Scale
- Portable weather station
Tensile strength of each individual fiber type (controls)
|Fiber Types||Strand Count||Tensile strength (Gigapixels)|
|HMPE (High- Modulus Polyethylene)|
|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|
|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|
- Ko, Frank K., et al. “Engineering properties of spider silk.” Materials Research Society Symposium Proceedings. Vol. 702. Warrendale, Pa.; Materials Research Society; 1999, 2002.
- Splicebook: Tips and Tricks for Expert Splicing and Choosing the Appropriate Rope
- The magnificence of spider silk