Bringing science and development together through original news and analysis

  • Spider silk provides clues for fog harvesting

Better techniques for collecting water from the air could be possible with the discovery of why spiders' webs are so effective at catching the morning dew.

Chinese researchers studying the silk of the spider Uloborus walckenaerius found that dry spider silk has a necklace-like structure of fibres connecting puffs of tiny, randomly arranged fibres.

When water condenses onto these puffs, they form tightly-packed knots, rougher than the smooth 'joint' fibres that connect them. When a water droplet condenses, it slides along the smooth joint to its nearest knot where it coalesces with others to form a larger drop.

To test whether this structure was responsible for the effective water-catching, the scientists created artificial silk using nylon fibres coated in a polymer solution that forms knots in a similar way. They say their findings could lead to new materials for collecting water from air.

Spider silk expert Brent Opell, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, United States, calls the scientists' ability to reproduce the properties of the silk impressive.

Link to article in Nature

Link to full paper in Nature[1.11MB]

Link to article in Nature*

* This link will be made available later.

Republish
We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.