A strong, flexible and electrically conductive fibre formed from spider silk coated with carbon nanotubes is described in Nature Communications this week. This achievement paves the way for the use of this material in electronic applications.
Spider silk has many structurally beneficial properties that may be attractive for use in electronic devices, such as great strength and flexibility, but its use in electronic applications depends on its compatibility with conductive materials. Eden Steven and colleagues have developed a synthetic procedure for the coating of spider silk with conductive carbon nanotubes. This material has improved toughness compared to the uncoated fibre whilst also being electrically conductive, with conductivity dependent on physical strain of the thread and also humidity. Through the demonstration of various sensors based on this material, including a heart pulse sensor, it is hoped these results will aid further development of spider silk-based electrical devices.