Spider silk doesn't look like such as good conductor of heat, but research by an Iowa State University professor found that the material has surprising properties. Especially the draglines that anchor webs in place are excellent heat conductors, it conducts heat at a rate of 416 watts per meter Kelvin, compared with 401 for copper and 0.6 for skin tissues. Interestingly, stretching spider silk to its 20 percent limit also increases conductivity by 20 percent.
The reason for spider silk's unusual heat-carrying properties, says Wang, is its defect-free molecular structure, including proteins that contain nanocrystals and the spring-shaped structures connecting the proteins.
The discovery means soft materials could be another option for thermal conductivity tuning, says Wang.
Spider silk could be used to help create flexible, heat-dissipating parts for electronics, better clothes for hot weather, bandages that don't trap heat and many other everyday applications.