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Spiders Expand New Horizons in Fiber-Optic Technology
Jan 1, 2005

Spiders, known to be horrifying animals to many, are recognized by us for their role in the ecological balance. If spiders were to be removed from the natural food chain, and thus, from the ecological balance, an explosion in the flea and insect populations would be inevitable. These masters of hunting are inspired with various hunting strategies. The spider is possessed with the ability to fabricate a web spun from a multi-featured thread, which it utilizes in hunting, defense, and reproduction. Some recent research projects have uncovered some significant features of the spider web; these are being employed in ways that will be beneficial to human life. The thin, elastic, durable thread that is capable of stretching up to three times its length which forms the spider web has been the subject of many research projects. One example of how these have been turned to use for human beings is the bullet-proof vests which are designed by imitating the formation of the spider web; these are superior to metal bullet-proof vests in terms of rigidity and weight.

Our Creator has solved every potential problem which living things might experience by creating one optimal solution among every alternative.These perfect solutions open new horizons for men, and they also act as guides in the development of science and technology. The book titled “Engineering in Nature” details many striking examples.1

In recent research, it has been discovered how the thread of a spider can contribute to fiber-optic technology. A crucial challenge in photonic technology is to produce the tiny optic fiber that is used as a conductor for a light beam in nano-scaled optic circuits. Yushan Yan, of the University of California in Riverside, has taken an important step forward in this technology by covering the thread from a spider web with a glass-like material and then removing the thread after the material has hardened. By utilizing this technique, it is possible to produce threads that are 1/50000th the diameter of human hair and that have a radius of 2 nanometers (1 nanometer being one billionth of a meter).

Not only will this discovery be applicable in photonic technology, it will also increase the resolution in optical microscopes, or, alternatively, these threads could be turned into nanoscale test tubes in a new breed of sensors that can suck up single molecules of a particular chemical.

A research group at the University of California cut a thread 1 centimeter long from the web of the giant spider of Madagascar, the Nepila Madagascariensis, and pasted the two ends of the thread to a card. Then they repeatedly dipped this thread into tetraethyl orthoslicate solution. After this, the thread that had undergone this process was dried and heated to a temperature of 420 Celsius. The string decreased by one fifth of its original radius and the process resulted in the production of tiny tubes with a radius of one micrometer.

There are plans to make use of the web of the Stegodyphus Pasifiu-a spider which uses a thread of a radius of 10 nanometers and which is found in the Middle East and Southern Asia. This will enable scientists to use thinner fibers. After heating, a thread with a radius of 2 nanometers is attained. Until this latest finding, it was only possible to produce fibers with an interior radius of 25 nanometers.

Fiber optic researchers do not hide their enthusiasm for this new simple and cheap technology. It is expected that it will be used in the field of supra-molecular chemistry; that is the study of very miniature environments. In these environments the reaction-speeds increase and completely different reactions occur. For such experiments carbon nano-tubes are being used at the present time. The tubes made from fibers obtained from spider webs will enable scientists to create more sensitive environments. It is also thought that it will be possible to create microscopes with a higher resolution by using tinier fiber optic catheters.

Such microscopes would be used to observe events that are shorter in duration than the wavelength of light, yet at the same time, these microscopes would not cause the sample to be harmed. Electron microscopes harm the sample since the features of the technology used necessitate this. Currently, these microscopes use a scope that has been made from very thin glass tubes. These fibers are relatively thick, measuring about 100 nanometers in radius. Yet, by means of this new technology, these new microscopes can be developed and biologists will have brand new opportunities to study events that have not been visible before. Surely, it is not possible to say that the immaculate biological structure and incredibly small thread employed by the spider can be explained by simply putting its creation down to chance or by stating that it is a product of nature.

These perfect examples that can be observed in nature will lead to fundamental changes in our understanding of the universe; they will enable great leaps in terms of making our life more comfortable and, most importantly, they will be helpful in realizing how the Divine Power and Art can be present together and be in harmony.


  • M. Sami Polatoz, Tabiatta Muhendislik [Engineering in Nature], Kaynak, Istanbul: 2003.
  • Danny Penman, Spiders Weave a Web of Light, New Scientist,
  • 22 March 2003, p. 20.