Spider silk spun into violin strings
Published: 5th Mar 2012 00:59:20
A Japanese researcher has used thousands of strands of spider silk to spin a set of violin strings.
The strings are said to have a "soft and profound timbre" relative to traditional gut or steel strings.
That may arise from the way the strings are twisted, resulting in a "packing structure" that leaves practically no space between any of the strands.
The strings will be described in a forthcoming edition of the journal Physical Review Letters.
Shigeyoshi Osaki of Japan's Nara Medical University has been interested in the mechanical properties of spider silk for a number of years.
In particular, he has studied the "dragline" silk that spiders dangle from, quantifying its strength in a 2007 paper in Polymer Journal.
Dr Osaki has perfected methods of obtaining large quantities of this dragline silk from captive-bred spiders and has now turned his attention to the applications of the remarkable material.
"Bowed string instruments such as the violin have been the subject of many scientific studies," he writes.
"However, not all of the details have been clarified, as most players have been interested in the violin body rather than the properties of the bow or strings."
Dr Osaki used 300 female Nephila maculata spiders - one of the species of "golden orb-weavers" renowned for their complex webs - to provide the dragline silk.
For each string, Dr Osaki twisted between 3,000 and 5,000 individual strands of silk in one direction to form a bundle. The strings were then prepared from three of these bundles twisted together in the opposite direction.
He then set about measuring their tensile strength - a critical factor for violinists wishing to avoid breaking a string in the midst of a concerto.
The spider-silk strings withstood less tension before breaking than a traditional but rarely used gut string, but more than an aluminium-coated, nylon-core string.
A closer study using an electron microscope showed that, while the strings themselves were perfectly round, in cross-section the strands had been compressed into a range of different shapes that all fit snugly together, leaving no space between them.
Dr Osaki suggests that it is this feature of the strings that lends them their strength and, crucially, their unique tone.
"Several professional violinists reported that spider strings... generated a preferable timbre, being able to create a new music," he wrote.
"The violin strings are a novel practical use for spider silk as a kind of high value-added product, and offer a distinctive type of timbre for both violin players and music lovers worldwide."
At 19:39:42 in EnglandThe family of a man who died, despite seven 999 calls for an ambulance, said he was failed in his "moment of need".
At 19:38:42 in SportNetherlands keeper Michel Vorm believes Louis van Gaal would be the ideal choice as Manchester United manager.
At 19:32:11 in EnglandHeathrow Airport is gearing towards the opening of its new Terminal 2 by unveiling Europe's largest privately funded sculpture.
At 19:27:52 in EnglandThe death of a 10-year-old boy who was hit by a car as he crossed the road outside his house was accidental, an inquest has heard.
At 19:13:07 in PoliticsPrivate parking firms paid more than £6m to the DVLA for the names and addresses of drivers in the past year - an increase of 28%, figures suggest.
At 19:12:17 in EnglandPoppies have been planted as part of a social media campaign to mark the First World War in Jersey.
At 19:11:22 in WalesGriff Rhys Jones has withdrawn from becoming Cardiff University's new chancellor just two weeks after an embarrassing debacle which saw his appointment halted at the last minute.
At 19:04:14 in EnglandA theatre company is hoping to have set a new world record by performing an abridged version of Shakespeare's works at more than 37,000ft (11,278m).
At 18:56:33 in WorldThe Iron Curtain fell 25 years ago, but it seems that nobody told the deer.
At 18:54:46 in EnglandA council is expanding the size of graves to accommodate obese people - and could charge extra for larger people to be buried in them.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Spider silk spun into violin strings [Online] (Updated 5th Mar 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1415615/Spider-silk-spun-into-violin-strings [Accessed 23rd Apr 2014]
News In Other Categories
Netherlands keeper Michel Vorm believes Louis van Gaal would be the ideal choice as Manchester United manager.
Portugal's chances of exiting its three-year bailout programme rose after the sale of 10-year government debt fell sharply to a record low 3.57%.
Tesco's internet service has been hit by two separate problems that coincided, leaving some of its customers irate.
A foundry has been fined £10,000 for serious safety failings after a worker's legs were crushed by a one-tonne casting mould.
The family of a man who died, despite seven 999 calls for an ambulance, said he was failed in his "moment of need".
A home security company is creating 230 jobs by expanding its operations in the Republic of Ireland.