Spiders Inspire Fear — Along With Novel Products That Could Change The World

Spiders, or at least caricatures of them, are out in full force this Halloween weekend. But next time you see the eight-legged creature carved into a pumpkin, or dropping from the ceiling of a haunted house, perhaps consider feeling more than just spooked. A little respect is also appropriate. Arachnids, as they’re scientifically known, could soon help you stay safer, warmer and healthier.

“They’re not here to scare us,” said Cheryl Hayashi, professor and vice chair of biology at University of California, Riverside. “There is lots of stuff we can learn from them.”

She and other scientists are discovering not only what spiders do and how they do it, but also how to mimic those unique capabilities in the development of new products and technologies, from gentler airbags and better bandages to biodegradable water bottles. And these are just a few examples of how the burgeoning field of biomimicry is benefitting the health of humans and the planet. By looking at nature — and all that life has refined and perfected in its 3.8 billion years on Earth — researchers are figuring out how to create color without chemical-based dyes, deter pests without pesticides, fend off bacteria without antibacterials that may drive antibiotic resistance, and make products that can be absorbed back into nature rather than spending hundreds of years in a landfill or a plastic garbage patch in the Pacific.

In fact, some of these spider-inspired technologies are nearly ready for prime time. In an October press release, The North Face and Japan-based partners, Spiber and Goldwin, announced development of the first “successfully-produced synthetic spider silk material.” The material is incorporated into their Moon Parka which, they stated, is “headed for commercialization in 2016.”

Currently, most sports apparel is made from synthetic polymer materials (such as —> Read More