Sergeant Spider At Your Service
The U.S. Army has a lot of private and public weapons. But one of their newest and most secret is the kind of thing that sends young maids screaming off their tuffets. It's a study of the properties of spider silk.
Think about the intricacies of the spider's web, and how the spider itself can swing across spaces on the very finest of filaments spun from its own body. Given the size of some spiders, that filament has got to have some astounding durable, weight-bearing properties. That was shown in studies published by the National Academy of Sciences in 2002.
Pound for pound, it was proven that spider silk is stronger than man-made steel. This is largely due to the proteins in each molecule of the silk, which have both a crystalline structure and a rubber-like flexibility. It's amazing ability to stretch, flex, and not break until taken beyond 30-50% of its length, is due to a unique process by which the structure of the molecules opens and closes as the load upon the silk shifts, allowing weight to be transferred from stretched to stronger particles.
The dragline silk has been compared in strength, to the material Kevlar, which is used in bulletproof vests. For military use, spider silk, or at least the mechanics that allow the proteins to create such incredible resistance to breakage, may one day figure in the making of protective vests, helmets and other gear.