Spider webs in your computer

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Photo courtesy of the Xinwei Wang research group

An Iowa State University researcher recently made an interesting and unexpected discovery about spider webs. Xinwei Wang discovered the silk spiders use to make their webs conducts heat better than commonly used materials like silicon and aluminum.

It’s unusual for biological materials to be good thermal conductors.

In a recently published paper on his research Xinwei Wang wrote, “Our discoveries will revolutionize the conventional thought on the low thermal conductivity of biological materials.”

Wang also found that unlike most materials, spider silk transfers even more heat when it’s stretched.

The spider silk is much thinner than a human hair, and very strong.

Wang said his research could lead to the creation of flexible, heat-dissipating parts for electronics. It could have applications in other everyday materials like hot weather clothing.

Practical applications might take awhile to develop.

Wang said there’s still a lot to be learned about why spider silk is so good at conducting heat, but he thinks it has something to do with proteins that contain nanocrystals and create a molecular structure that’s remarkably free of defects.

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