Spider Silk: Mother Nature’s Bio-Superlens


For the first time, scientists use spider silk as superlens to maximize the potential of the microscope. This research was conduct by scientists from UK’s Bangor and Oxford universities.

Previously, scientists used a nanobead-derive superlens to break the perceived resolution barrier. The same team has achieved another world first. In this research, scientists use naturally occurring material i.e., drag line silk of the golden web spider. They used it as an additional superlens. They then apply it on the surface of the material to examine and to provide an additional 2-3 times magnification.

This is for the first time, scientists use naturally occurring biological material as superlens. The spider silk is actually gain from the thumb size Nephila spider as a lens. Furthermore, scientists also told how they use a cylindrical piece of spider silk.

The lenses can be used to see and view previously hidden structures. For example, organized nanostructures and biological microstructures and potentially, native germs and viruses.
Dr. Zengbo Wang said, “We prove that the resolution barrier of the microscope can be broken using a superlens. But the generation of fabricated superlenses includes some complex engineering processes which are not widely accessible to other researchers. That’s why we have an interest in looking for a naturally occurring superlens provides by ‘Mother Nature’. This may exist around us so that everyone can access superlenses.”

The natural cylindrical structure at a micron and submicron scale make silks ideal candidates. In this case, each filament has diameters of one tenth of a thin human hair.
The spider silk filaments allow scientists to view details on a microchip and a blue-ray disk. This may be invisible using the unmodified optical microscope.

Prof Fritz Vollrath said, “It is very exciting to find yet another cutting edge and totally novel use for a spider silk. This is what, we have been studying for over two decades in my laboratory.”

When you look through a cylindrical glass or bottle, the clear image runs along the narrow strip directly opposite your line of vision or resting on the surface being viewed. Although, the single filament provides a one-dimensional viewing image along its length.

This spider silk lens has advantages in the larger field of view when to compare to a microsphere superlens. It will be used for potential commercial applications. For example, a spider silk nanoscope would be robust and economical, which in turn could provide excellent manufacturing platforms for a wide range of applications.

James Monks, a co-author on the paper comments: “It’s exciting time to be able to develop this project as part of my honors degree in electronic engineering at Bangor University. Now I am very much looking forward to joining Dr. Wang’s team as a Ph.D. student in nano-photonics.”

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