Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Look! Spider!

     It's Erica, again!  As designated blogger here at CEC, one of my jobs is to stay informed and to inform our readers about environmental topics in the news.  I will say that though environmental stories rarely shine through the dark abyss of political reports with the upcoming election, one story sort of jumped out at me...or rather I jumped when I saw it.  I am talking about spiders.  Chances are that you experienced the sensation of tiny insects crawling all over you when I mentioned that word just now, but we really shouldn't be afraid of the little guys.
     One Japanese scientist at Iowa State University cast aside his fears and actually discovered something:  a certain species of spiders, called the golden silk orbweaver spider, can produce silk that is a better conductor than most other materials.  These creepy crawlies have been able to produce a silk that conducts more heat than aluminum, silicone, and pure iron (the materials commonly used today), only to be outperformed by diamond and silver.
     Another cool feature of this silk is that as it is stretched out, it only gets better, conductivity-wise.  Most other materials experience the opposite effect, making this new material adaptable in more situations.
     According to the University of Utah, "Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild the entire
commercial air fleet every three months" and "enough steel to reconstruct Manhattan." So, is it possible that this could reduce our dependence on the aforementioned products?   Well, scientists are not sure yet.  The material is still in the experimental stage; however, its discoverer, Xinwei Wang, believes that it could be used in cooling computers and other bits of technology, which currently rely on things like copper, aluminum, etc.
     Personally, I think that if this brave soul can find a way to reduce even the smallest fraction of our dependence on these resources (considering the widespread use of technology these days), he will have gone done in my history books as an environmental hero.  Besides this, if he can find a way to commercialize his discovery, a drop in the cost of electronics would be greatly appreciated!
     So, what do you think?  Is his discovery worthy of making environmental news, or does the thought of a permanent spider's web in your home computer make you jump?  Let me know!

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