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 02:59:05 in HealthSeveral big names have pulled out of the Commonwealth Games in the past few weeks with injuries and illness.
At 01:32:45 in HeadlinesTwo teams of actors and authors are reprising a historic cricket match which died out before World War One. Why?
At 01:30:04 in HeadlinesAuthor Jeremy Clay tells the singular story of the girl who was frightened to death by a coffin.
At 01:14:03 in HealthScientists have discovered a previously unknown virus living in the human gut, according to a study in Nature Communications.
At 00:39:36 in WorldCampaigners in the US are calling for the release of a man in Missouri serving a life sentence without parole for a marijuana offence. They are crowdfunding and using the hashtag #FreeJeff.
At 00:34:38 in SportIt was supposed to be his party.
At 00:34:24 in WorldThe Kuwaiti government's decision to revoke the nationalities of the owner of a pro-opposition TV channel and newspaper, and a former MP along with three members of his family, has sparked fears for the political future of the Gulf state.
At 00:21:57 in WorldExactly 800 years ago on Sunday, in a field next to what is now the airport of Lille, a battle was fought which determined the history of England.
At 00:21:15 in EnglandWhen a postbox mysteriously appeared on the side of a bridge last year it made international headlines and flummoxed spoon bender extraordinaire Uri Geller. But who is the prankster behind this and many other japes?
At 00:20:45 in SportArsenal are close to completing the signing of Southampton defender Calum Chambers for a fee of about £16m.
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 26th Jul 2014]
News In Other Categories
A Russian satellite containing geckos, fruit flies and mushrooms could plummet to earth if control is not regained, according to reports.
Scots actress Karen Gillan is to appear in her biggest movie role yet in Marvel's sci-fi action adventure Guardians of the Galaxy.
When a postbox mysteriously appeared on the side of a bridge last year it made international headlines and flummoxed spoon bender extraordinaire Uri Geller. But who is the prankster behind this and many other japes?
Several big names have pulled out of the Commonwealth Games in the past few weeks with injuries and illness.
When this picture of Ed Miliband's battle with a bacon butty hit the news, the Labour team pulled a few faces of their own. So why is the party's leader talking about how he looks?
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com