17.05.2017 change 17.05.2017

Spider web will help in air quality analysis

Spider web can be a great indicator for air quality analysis, complementing the current monitoring methods. Scientists may use a web woven by spiders in nature, or grow it in a laboratory and deploy it themselves.

Air quality status is monitored by various types of electronic sensors. Their can be complemented by biomonitoring, observing the state of the environment using specific animal or plant species. Air pollution research can be carried out by analysing mosses, lichens, composition of leaves, needles, animal hair, bird feathers. Researchers from Wroclaw University of Technology use spider webs for this purpose.

"In our project we investigate the possibility of use of spider webs as indicators of environmental pollution. This allows to determine the composition of pollutants and their source. This is an extremely inexpensive and effective method that can complement other monitoring techniques already used on an industrial scale" - told PAP Radosław Rutkowski from the Faculty of Environmental Engineering, Wroclaw University of Technology.

Researchers can use spider webs grown in the lab. "Such webs can be prepared on frames and deployed in different places that interest us. Naturally occurring spiders can also be used" - explained Dr. Justyna Rybak from the Faculty of Environmental Engineering, Wroclaw University of Technology.

In the latter scenario, however, it is necessary to first destroy the existing web and observe as spiders weave a new one. "Then you can determine the exact period over which the pollution has settled on it" - said Dr. Rybak.

When using a spider web for air quality monitoring, scientists do not have to worry about atmospheric conditions. "It is one of the advantages of using spider webs. For their own good, spiders try to weave their webs in places protected from rain and wind" - emphasized Radosław Rutkowski.

Dr. Rybak admitted that researchers have many different ideas on how to use spiders because the spider web is a unique structure and has many uses: from surgical strands to bulletproof vests. "The problem is the spiders themselves, because - unlike silkworms - they do not want to weave spider silk in mass quantities. In addition, spider breeding is not easy. But we can certainly use naturally occurring spider webs. There are many spiders in cities, in places that are difficult to access" - she noted.

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