A Japanese researcher has created violin strings out of spider silk collected from 300 spiders. And these spiders were hard at work: Each violin string consists of between 9,000 and 15,000 filaments.
Shigeyoshi Osaki from the Nara Medical University in Japan bundled the filaments together to create A, D, and G note strings. The violin's novel material produces a "soft and profound" timbre — the tone quality or tone "color" of a note. Professional violinists even rated the spider silk sound quality more highly than traditional string quality. You can hear the violin's unique sound on BBC News.
To create his strings, Osaki collected circular filaments from the spiders and twisted them until they were suitably dense and strong. Osaki found that as he twisted the filaments together, a cross-sectional slice of the string transitioned from a circular shape to a variety of polygonal shapes indicative of high density.
This high density is necessary to prevent breakage and to produce a suitable sound.
After creating his violin, Osaki put it to the test on both a common violin frame and the frame of the famous 1720 "Gillot" violin made by Antonio Stradivari. Professional violinists rated the timbre for a variety of strings on both of the violins. In the case of the Gillot violin, the musicians found that the spider silk string had the "fittest" timbre. In fact, spider silk applied to a common violin had the same quality as traditional strings on the Gillot violin, according to the musicians.
In addition to producing better sound quality, spider silk also allowed for easier tuning of the violin. Osaki found that spider silk had a higher elastic limit strength compared to traditional materials like nylon, making it easier to tune.
Osaki hopes that his research will provide not only new insights into violins but also the unique packing structure transition of the bundles. In his research paper, Osaki notes that this spider silk research should lead to broader applications:
"This result provides valuable knowledge for developing new types of materials, including composites with a unique packing structure."
Top image courtesy Vincent de Groot via Wikimedia Commons.