Mind & Matter


Sticky Secrets

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Spider web adhesive technology could replace petroleum-based products. Photo: Wikipedia.


In her book Biomimicry, Janine Benyus turned our attention to spider silk, whose mechanical performance relative to weight dramatically outpaces that of steel. Now, researchers at University of Wyoming in Laramie have revealed that dragline thread is not the spider’s sole material innovation.

Omar Choresh and colleagues have unlocked genetic secrets related to the glue that spiders secrete to trap prey—an adhesive trick that has long eluded scientists. By mimicking the formation of glue-secreting spider cells, Choresh determined that two individual proteins comprised by genes on opposite strands of the same DNA make up the sticky glycoprotein.

Possible applications include a new line of biocompatible, surgical adhesives. A more distant future could bring biomimetic, self-adhering architectural textiles.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.