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Biopolymers

Shape memory in spider draglines

The torsional properties of spider silk add to its list of remarkable physical credentials.

Abstract

The ductility and strength of spider draglines means that they outperform the best synthetic fibres1,2,3,4,5, but surprisingly little is known about the torsional properties of this remarkable filament. Unlike a mountain climber swinging from a rope, a spider suspended from its silk thread hardly ever twists. Here we show that a spider dragline has a torsional shape ‘memory’ in that it can reversibly and totally recover its initial form without any external stimulus; its observed relaxation dynamics indicate that these biological molecules have successively different torsional constants.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Correspondence to Olivier Emile.

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Further reading

Figure 1: Relaxation dynamics of a torsion pendulum for four different threads.
Figure 2: A spider's silk.

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