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They are lightweight, almost invisible, highly extensible and strong, and of course biodegradable: the threads spiders use to build their webs. In fact, spider silk belongs to the toughest fibres in nature. Based on its low weight it even supersedes high-tech threads like Kevlar or Carbon. Its unique combination of strength and extensibility renders it in particular attractive for industry. Whether in aviation industry, textile industry, or medicine -- potential applications of this magnificent material are manifold.

Material scientists have long sought to reproduce the fibre in the laboratory, but with limited success. Today, it is possible to manufacture artificial spider silk of similar properties as the prototype, but the molecular-level structural details responsible for material properties await to be disclosed. Now, scientists from the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) delivered new insights. Dr Hannes Neuweiler, lecturer at the Institute of Biotechnology and Biophysics at the JMU, is in charge of this project. His results are published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

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