New research in pursuit of super strong material: goats generating spider silk

Research by scientists in pursuit of super strong material is in progress. Partial success has been achieved in previous research on this subject, and the materials obtained have found uses in many areas. For example, “Kevlar” which is inspired by the chemical structure of spider silk, was first designed to replace steel in automobile tyres. Now, it has numerous areas of use: in the beams of airbags in the Pathfinder that was designed to travel to Mars; in passenger protecting shields of jet aircrafts; in the production of lightweight ropes of small diameter that are used in the mooring of huge vessels and super tankers; and in the production of lighter but stronger tennis rackets.

Kevlar also has some disadvantages, even though it is strong and lightweight. For example, when used to manufacture bullet-proof vests, it reduces the mobility of the wearer since it is very hard. Therefore, it is not very suitable for tasks requiring agility and speed. Moreover, it may absorb water and is not as durable as other materials against natural factors. In addition, its compressive properties are relatively weak in spite of its high tensile strength. Hence, there are still a number of improvements that could be made on Kevlar. (Harun Yahya, Biomimetic)

All these disadvantages of Kevlar are enough to show that spider silk, which is five times stronger than steel wire of the same thickness, in spite of its diameter being smaller than one tenth of one millimetre, is a perfect wonder of design. In the issue published in August 2001 of National Geographic, a well-known scientific magazine, these creatures were examined under the heading “Spiders puzzle evolutionists with their art”. In his statement to the magazine, Mr. Bill Eberhard, a well-known biologist, described conscious movements of spiders and their excellent webs as follows:


“You have an essentially blind animal with a limited nervous system building a complicated structure in an unpredictable environment. The spider makes what for a human would be very complex calculations: ‘How big is the open space? How much silk do I have?  What attachment points are available?’ Spiders are not little automatons making the same thing over and over. They’re flexible.  And they’re not stupidly flexible; they’re smart flexible.”

Attempts to produce spider silk are some of the most exciting developments in the search for super strong materials.

Now, scientists aim at producing spider silk directly rather than producing imitations of its chemical structure. However, producing the fibres from the spiders themselves is not as easy as milking the cow, because very large areas are necessary to collect silk in adequate quantities and this is not economically viable. Moreover, collecting silk in high quantities is extremely difficult since spiders tend to eat each other.

For all these reasons, a company called Nexia entered into an agreement to produce spider web silk by utilizing goats, with the Departments of Defence of the USA and Canada. This advanced gene technology is preferred due to the similarities between milk glands of goats and secretory glands of spiders. They are attempting to re-engineer the DNA of goats, so that they secrete silk instead of milk.1

The spider silk, the exact like of which scientists are trying to manufacture artificially is being web by spider for 380 millions of years. ("A Devonian Spinneret: Early Evidence of Spiders and Silk Use," Science, Shear, W.A., J.M.Palmer, 246:479-481.) This is without doubt one of signs of the perfect creations of Allah. All these extraordinary processes are within the dominion of Allah and take place by His will. One verse of the Qur’an states as thus:

“..There is no creature He does not hold by the forelock..” (Surah Hud, 56)

1-"A Devonian Spinneret: Early Evidence of Spiders and Silk Use," Science, Shear, W.A., J.M.Palmer, 246:479-481.

2011-01-13 11:38:54

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