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Séminaire de Hervé Elettro

Elasto-capillary windlass : from spider webs to synthetic actuators

Hervé Elettro, Sébastien Neukirch, Arnaud Antkowiak, Fritz Vollrath

CNRS & UPMC, UMR 7190, Institut Jean Le Rond D’Alembert, F-75005 Paris, France

Spiders webs and gossamer threads are often paraded as paradigms for lightweight structures and outstanding poly- mers[1]. Probably the most intriguing of all spider silks is the araneid capture thread which is covered with tiny gly- coprotein glue droplets[2]. Dedicated to catching prey insects and coping with being buffeted by wind, this fibre is particularly extensible. Even if compressed, the capture thread remains surprisingly taut allowing both thread and web to be in a constant state of tension. Vollrath and Edmonds[3]proposed that the glue droplets act as small windlasses and are therefore responsible for the tension, but other explanations have also been suggested, involving for example the macromolecular properties of the flagelliform silk core filaments. Here we show that the nanolitre glue droplets of the capture thread composite induce buckling and coiling of the core filaments (see figure 1).


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