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Spider Silk: Stress-Strain Curves and Young's Modulus

Author(s): Lou Gross1, Monica Beals1, Susan Harrell1

University of Tennessee Knoxville

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This module introduces the stress-strain curve in the context of understanding materials' mechanical behavior. It is intended for an introductory biology audience.

Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

Version 1.0 - published on 15 Feb 2019 doi:10.25334/Q4HT7X - cite this


Student Introduction: Solid materials are often categorized by their mechanical behavior. One such category is tensile materials, which operate by resisting being pulled upon. Four common types of tensile materials are found in living organisms: silk, collagen, cellulose, and chitin. Silk and collagen are both composed of proteins, while cellulose and chitin are composed of polysaccharides (sugars). The properties of tensile materials are often investigated using stress-strain tests, which involve pulling on a sample from each end. Spider webs, which function in prey capture for many species, are made of silk, a well-studied example of a tensile material.

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