(ORDO NEWS) — We know that the web has amazing properties due to its light weight, incredible elasticity and status as one of the most durable natural materials. Scientists have made another outstanding discovery in the field of application of the miracle material.
It turns out that web-weaving spiders use their web as an array to expand their auditory range, which means we can create similar devices with incredible audio sensitivity.
The thinness and sensitivity of the web is such that one strand of it can reveal the movement of vibrating air particles in a sound wave.
This principle is different from how the human body picks up sounds, and in a 2017 study, scientists from Binghamton University have already used such subtle movements to create an improvised, highly sensitive microphone.
“The spider is actually a natural demonstration that the web is a great way to perceive sound using the forces of viscosity in air on thin fibers,” explained mechanical engineer Ron Miles. “If it works in nature, maybe we should take a closer look at it.”
Exploring the web
Miles and his colleagues at Binghamton University continue to explore ways to detect sound using webs, in hopes of developing more sophisticated microphones for use in everything from hearing aids to mobile phones.
Their latest experiments involved collecting orb-web spiders from around campus, which were made to weave their webs inside moving rectangular frames.
The scientists then used a laser vibrometer to measure the movement of the web in response to sounds in 1,000 different locations, creating a broader picture of how the web moves under the influence of tiny vibrating air particles.
After the researchers tried to study the behavior of the spider in the web, to determine whether it responds to different sounds, and if so, how exactly.
The team came up with a curious experiment by placing a small speaker about 2mm from the plane of the web and 5cm from its center where the spider sat.
This meant that the sound went to the spider both through the air, where it quickly decayed, and through the web, where it fell with a smoother decay, reaching the spider at a level of about 68 decibels.
Four out of 12 spiders have been found to respond to sounds propagated through their webs, so that hunters actually hear through their trapping web.
In some experiments, the spiders also did strange crouching and stretching the web, which the scientists think may be a way to tune their webs to pick up sounds at different frequencies.
Because in their natural environment they respond to the vibration of the web when prey enters it, scientists suspect these methods may be an extension of the warning system to detect predators as well as potential prey.
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