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STIAS Lecture Series 2016: Fritz Vollrath – Unraveling Spider Webs and Silks

STIAS Public Lectures Series

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Professor Fritz Vollrath  from the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford and current STIAS fellow will present a talk with the title

Unraveling Spider Webs and Silks


Spider silks, like the silks of other arthropods, use proteins as the structural components and water as the solvent. Protein and water combine and separate – under ambient pressures and temperatures – to make the silk thread, which can be so tough that it outperforms even the best man-made fibres.

So far, our studies of spider silks and webs have lead us to a number of important discoveries ranging from tunable nano-scale composite structures (that absorb energy hydro-electrically) to complex self-assembling micro-machines (that absorb energy mechanically) all the way to the building of complex webs cleverly engineered to absorb energy aerodynamically. All these ways-and-means are the works of Nature’s ‘Design by Evolution’, which is a powerful albeit rather time consuming process, to create and fabricate highly functional – and energy efficient – materials, devices and systems.

Importantly, silks are not only interesting as highly evolved natural materials but seem to have a bright future as conceptual models to guide our understanding of energy efficient bio-polymers and also as prototype models to guide the design of totally novel polymer systems be it for medicine or engineering.


Datum   Dinsdag 16 Februarie 2016

Tyd       13:00
Plek     JC de Wet lesingsaal, Ou Hoofgebou 1023 – Ryneveld Str, Universiteit Stellenbosch

Ons sien daarna uit om u by hierdie geleentheid te verwelkom – moet dit nie misloop nie! Vir meer inligting kontak vir Felicia McDonald by 021 808 2581 of [email protected]


Date    Tuesday 16 February 2016
Time      13:00
Place    JC de Wet lecture hall, Ou Hoofgebou 1023 – Ryneveld St, Stellenbosch University

We look forward to welcoming you at this event – not to be missed! For more information, contact Felicia McDonald at 021 808 2581 or [email protected]


Fritz Vollrath is Professor of Zoolgy and leader of the Oxford Silk Group. He was educated and trained in Germany and Panama and has held positions at the Universities of Basel, Aarhus and Oxford. He has carried out fieldwork in Central and South America, Australia, Papua/Micronesia, Asia and Africa. His main research interests cover silks and silk-structures as well as animal decision-making. Apart from their fascinating ecology, silks are interesting and important model systems for probing into the details of protein folding. On a practical side, fundamental research has led to a number of spin-out companies, mostly focussing on the use of silk in regenerative medicine. Other interests cover the evolution of the spider’s web, the role of emergent properties in animal behaviour and the behavioural economics of elephant ecology and conservation (see

Date and time

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

13:00 – 14:00​

All times are in SAST (UTC+2)


No location.

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United Kingdom

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