Iowa State engineer discovers spider silk conducts heat as well as metals
Xinwei Wang, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State, has found that spider silks -- particularly the draglines that anchor webs in place -- conduct heat better than most materials, including very good conductors such as silicon, aluminum and pure iron. With a heat conduction rate of 416 watts per meter Kelvin, scientists finds this high for any organic material; only diamond and silver show higher thermal conductivity. Even more surprising is stretching spider silk to its 20 percent limit also increases conductivity by 20 percent while most other organic material lose thermal conductivity when stretched. Potential uses for the spider silk could mean flexible, heat-dissipating parts for electronics, better clothes for hot weather, bandages that don't trap heat and many other everyday applications."Our discoveries will revolutionize the conventional thought on the low thermal conductivity of biological materials," commented Wang.