Micro-optical elements and optical materials of certain spider webs

D. M. Kane*, N. Naidoo, D. J. Little

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution

1 Citation (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Certain spider webs are composed of several types of micro-optical elements made from transparent optical materials. The silks (radial and capture) are almost exclusively protein. The nearly cylindrical silks have diameters in the range 0.1 to several microns and cross-sectional morphology that is cylindrical-multi-layered,.as studied by transmission electron microscopy, The capture threads are coated with aqueous adhesive that also forms into nearly elliptical micro-lenses (adhesive droplets) mounted on the near cylindrical silks. The remaining elements of the web are the cement junctions tying the radial and the capture threads of the web together. These are irregularly shaped platelets. Progress to date on our research characterizing the optical properties and function of these transparent orb webs has been to interpret the reflection and transmission properties of the elements of the web, and the web as a whole, in natural lighting; to evaluate the optical finish of the surface of the silks and capture droplets; and to measure the principal refractive indices of radial silks using new immersion based methods developed for application to micron-sized, curved optical elements. Here we report the principal refractive indices, birefringence, dispersion and morphology of transparent spider silk subject to various chemical treatments. The morphology is measured using TEM. Insight into the physical origin of the refractive index properties will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMicro-Optics 2012
EditorsHugo Thienpont, Jürgen Mohr, Hans Zappe, Hirochika Nakajima
Place of PublicationBellingham, Washington
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9780819491206
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventMicro-Optics 2012 - Brussels, Belgium
Duration: 16 Apr 201219 Apr 2012


OtherMicro-Optics 2012

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