Spider's super-glue

Thread anchors are composite adhesives with synergistic hierarchical organization

Jonas O. Wolff*, Ingo Grawe, Marina Wirth, André Karstedt, Stanislav N. Gorb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


Silk is a key innovation in spiders, fascinating both biologists and material scientists. However, to fulfil their biological function silken threads must be strongly fastened to substrates or other threads. The majority of modern spiders produce a unique and rather unexplored bio-adhesive: the two-compound pyriform secretion, which is spun into elaborate patterns (so called attachment discs) and used to anchor silken threads to substrates. Strong adhesion is achieved on a high variety of surfaces with a minimum of material consumption. Pyriform threads polymerize under ambient conditions, become functional within less than a second and can remain stable for years. They are biodegradable, biocompatible and highly versatile-the adhesion and the overall toughness of the attachment disc can be controlled by spinneret movements on a macroscopic level (ref. 1: V. Sahni et al., Nat. Commun., 2012, 3, 1106, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2099). We found that the pyriform thread is a silk fibre that is coated with glue-like cement consisting of aligned nanofibrils, lipid enclosures and a dense, isotropic boundary layer. The threads are spun in a meshwork pattern that promotes stress distribution and crack arresting. Our results demonstrate, that hierarchical organization and fibre embedding may explain the high adhesive strength and flaw tolerance of a structure made by the same, rather simple type of silk glands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2394-2403
Number of pages10
JournalSoft Matter
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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