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Spider Webs - an Air Filter?

Plamena M.Plamena M.

Scientists from the University of Oxford recently found another unique property of one of the most amazing creations of nature - the spider's web. A conductive glue flows along it, distributed along the surface of the threads, which unerringly captures prey.

The discovered electrostatic properties of the glue that covers the web not only give it this ability but also allow it to capture all charged particles - from miniature dust specks and trash to flying insects.

This bizarre physical phenomenon causes the spider web to move in the direction of all near flyby objects, no matter if they are positively or negatively charged.

It has been a well-known fact for some time now that everything flying around in the air carries with it a static charge. Spiders however, are the ones that have mastered it and use it to catch their prey. This discovery finally explains how the spiderweb manages to trap even small particles from the air and why insects fall into it so easily.

The revelation can be used all over the world to monitor the status of the environment. The thin threads actively filter polluting substances from the air just as effectively as expensive industrial equipment.


The phenomenal physics of spiderwebs make them the ideal filters of polluted air. This includes aerosols and pesticides. Electrical attraction pulls in these particles in the webs on its own.

Another finding made by scientists is that the presence of various substances found in the air can be detected just by looking at the shape of the web. It has been known that spiders create a very different web when under the influence of various chemicals.

Under LSD, they construct astonishingly beautiful webs, while if they get a dose of caffeine, they assemble ugly structures. In this way, the shape of the spiderweb is able to inform the observer whether the air contains certain chemicals that affect the behavior of this unique creature.