In situ three-dimensional spider web construction and mechanics

IS Su and N Narayanan and MA Logrono and K Guo and A Bisshop and R Muhlethaler and T Saraceno and MJ Buehler, PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 118, e2101296118 (2021).

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2101296118

Spiders are nature's engineers that build lightweight and highperformance web architectures often several times their size and with very few supports; however, little is known about web mechanics and geometries throughout construction, especially for three-dimensional (3D) spider webs. In this work, we investigate the structure and mechanics for a Tidarren sisyphoides spider web at varying stages of construction. This is accomplished by imaging, modeling, and simulations throughout the web-building process to capture changes in the natural web geometry and the mechanical properties. We show that the foundation of the web geometry, strength, and functionality is created during the first 2 d of construction, after which the spider reinforces the existing network with limited expansion of the structure within the frame. A better understanding of the biological and mechanical performance of the 3D spider web under construction could inspire sustainable robust and resilient fiber networks, complex materials, structures, scaffolding, and self-assembly strategies for hierarchical structures and inspire additive manufacturing methods such as 3D printing as well as inspire artistic and architectural and engineering applications.

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