The strength of spider webs has amazed scientists for centuries. While research has provided a great deal of information on how spiders do this, a piece of the puzzle has always been missing, keeping the researchers from being able replicate the strength of these fine threads.
As explained in an article from ABC News, "While they understood the substances used by these inventive little animals, they couldn't figure out the mechanics of how spiders combine those substances to make silk. When they tried it in their labs, they got inferior products."
But new research is now showing the missing link is: timing. That is, the timing of the hardening of the silken threads. "Spiders control the water content of the gel to prevent the proteins from crystalizing until they are ready to spin the silk fibers. If the proteins crystalized too soon, the process would fail," the article said.
The researchers see this discovery as a major advance in creating materials, threads and fibers that are, truly, as strong as steel.