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An essential element in the web-trap architecture, the capture silk spun by ecribellate orb spiders consists of glue droplets sitting astride a silk filament. Mechanically this thread presents a mixed solid-liquid behavior unknown to date. Under extension, capture silk behaves as a particularly stretchy solid, owing to its molecular nanosprings, but it totally switches behavior in compression to now become liquid-like: It shrinks with no apparent limit while exerting a constant tension. Here, we unravel the physics underpinning the unique behavior of this "liquid wire" and demonstrate that its mechanical response originates in the shape-switching of the silk filament induced by buckling within the droplets. Learning from this natural example of geometry and mechanics, we manufactured programmable liquid wires that present previously unidentified pathways for the design of new hybrid solid-liquid materials.

Original publication

DOI

10.1073/pnas.1602451113

Type

Journal article

Journal

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date

31/05/2016

Volume

113

Pages

6143 - 6147

Keywords

bioinspired material, elastocapillarity, fluid–structure interaction, microsystems, spider silk, Adhesives, Animals, Biocompatible Materials, Biomechanical Phenomena, Materials Testing, Models, Theoretical, Silk, Software, Solutions, Spiders, Tensile Strength