Oxford Silk Group ABRG, Department of Zoology, Oxford University Argiope
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Diagram of various silks spiders can make
Silks of spiders
 

Overview

The work of the Oxford Silk Group can be divided into six general areas all focusing on natural silks:

Properties: The mechanical characteristics of a silk can be linked to physical and chemical traits and even to molecular structure-function relationships by combining a range of polymer testing and modeling techniques.

Spinning: The extreme toughness of spider dragline silks depends on the controlled folding of all component proteins in the spinning duct. The structure of the protein feedstock in combination with the extrusion process produces the hierarchical structure of the multi-protein silk thread. The spider's complex spinning is a process that is largely devoted to the controlled extraction of water from an already rather concentrated protein-dope solution. Comparing spider and insect spinning is providing new insights into natural extrusion processes.

Composites: The cocoons of silkworms and the webs of spiders give exciting insights the into natural requirements for material properties of both fibres and matrix and functional traits thereof.

Evolution: Silks have evolved several times independently but most silks share a significant number of key traits. This convergence suggests that these traits are the prerequisite for a ‘good’ silk and in comparative studies we are trying to unravel the interrelationships between constraints and functionality.

Sustainability: Life Cycle Analysis allows us to assign ecological costs and benefits to the various parameters involved in commercial silk production, and thus quantitatively assess sustainability parameters.

Behaviour: Last but not least we are interested in the role played by behaviour in spinning, cocoon construction and web engineering.

 

 
Recent News

December 2020

Two new studies have found that spiders can not only catch prey efficiently even when webs are severely distorted, but also build a normal web even when the structures to which it is anchored are continually moving (in press).

November 2020

This paper reviewed in Scientific American examines an interesting and potentially very important paradigm of morphological computing to study and test new ideas about the next generation of robots.

November 2019

Prof. Fritz Vollrath and colleagues from the Fudan University in China are widely covered in the news for their discovery of a means to produce fake Rhino horns using horse hair. Hopes are that this product may undermine the illegal market for rhino horn, and demistify the properties of rhino horn. View Here

October 2019

Scientists from the universities of Oxford, Shanghai and Beijing discovered how it can be that natural silks get stronger as they get colder. View Here

September 2019

Our latest Spin-out Spintex Engineering will use Aquamelt TM spinning technology to manufacture spider-type filaments

 

Media Archive

 

Copyright 2007 OSG last updated 2 January, 2013