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    The disruptive nature of water presents a significant challenge when designing synthetic adhesives that maintain functionality in wet conditions. However, many animal adhesives can withstand high humidity or underwater conditions, and some are even enhanced by them. An understudied mechanism in such systems is the influence of material plasticization by water to induce adhesive work through deformation. Cribellate silk is a dry adhesive used by particular spiders to capture moving prey. It presents as a candidate for testing the water plasticization model as it can remain functional at high humidity despite lacking an aqueous component. We performed herein tensile and adhesion tests on cribellate threads from the spider, Hickmania troglodytes; a spider that lives within wet cave environments. We found that the work of adhesion of its cribellate threads increased as the axial fibre deformed during pull-off experiments. This effect was enhanced when the silk was wetted and as spider body size increased. Dry threads on the other hand were stiff with low adhesion. We rationalized our experiments by a series of scaling law models. We concluded that these cribellate threads operate best when the nanofibrils and axial fibers both contribute to adhesion. Design of future synthetic materials could draw inspiration from how water facilitates, rather than diminishes, cribellate silk adhesion. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


    Dakota Piorkowski, Chen-Pan Liao, Anna-Christin Joel, Chung-Lin Wu, Niall Doran, Sean J Blamires, Nicola M Pugno, I-Min Tso. Adhesion of spider cribellate silk enhanced in high humidity by mechanical plasticization of the underlying fiber. Journal of the mechanical behavior of biomedical materials. 2021 Feb;114:104200

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    PMID: 33214109

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