Scientists at the University of Trento, Italy have created some of the world's first 'super spiders' by coating them in nanotubes.
Invoking ideas found in everyone's friendly neighbourhood superhero "Spider-Man", the scientists wondered what would happen if you combined one of the strongest materials in the world (graphene) with one of the strongest silks known to nature.
To find out, they took 15 Orb spiders and sprayed them with either a mix of water and graphene or water and carbon nanotubes.
What they found was quite astonishing. While four spiders died almost immediately, and others spun sub-par silk, one spider produced silk that was 3.5x stronger than normal.
While the researchers still aren't entirely sure how the spider was able to create such strong silk New Scientists reports that two theories stick out.
The first suggests that the nanotubes were being attached to the silk as it's spun, while the second -- and arguably more interesting -- implies that the spider was actually able to absorb the nanotubes and incorporate it directly into the silk-making process.
Aside from being incredibly cool, the researchers haven't yet worked out what the applications for this would be (other than creating smart-mouthed teenage superheroes).
However they do believe that by learning more about the process they'll be able to make real progress in the synthesising of ultra-strong fibres.Suggest a correction