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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Technology Update

Air Date: Week of April 6, 2001

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Transcript

GRABER: When spiders weave their web, they create amazingly strong silk to snag bugs, silk that's stronger than steel. And, unlike the synthetic fiber industry, spiders don't use or produce harmful chemicals, and the finished product is recyclable. Scientists have long looked to spider silk to potentially replace synthetics in products such as medical sutures, climbing ropes, even bulletproof clothing. But they're just beginning to figure out how silk is made. They've decoded the way spiders add small amounts of acid and potassium ions to help unwind special protein molecules. This process turns the liquid into very tough fibers encased in small amounts of goo. Scientists are now attempting to duplicate this process and hope to have the first testing rig up and running in six months. That's this week's technology update. I'm Cynthia Graber.

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CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. And coming up: Life in a tunnel that straddles the U.S.-Mexican border. But first...

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