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Researchers patent spider silk microphone

From adhesives to airplane parts, spider-web silks have long inspired inventors with their featherweight strength and flexibility.

One day, we might even broadcast through microphones made of the stuff.

Most microphones mimic the human ear: Acoustic waves cause vibrations in a thin, eardrum-like diaphragm, which are converted to electrical signals.

But, broadly speaking, hearing is really just a way of getting information from wiggles.

It turns out some orb spiders can detect more than the struggles of an insect caught in their webs; they can sense the intensity and direction of incoming sounds, too.

That’s because their silk is sensitive to a broader frequency range than any microphone.

The researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York have patented the approach and are working to commercialize it.

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Nicholas Gerbis joined KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk in 2016. A longtime science, health and technology journalist and editor, his extensive background in related nonprofit and science communications inform his reporting on Earth and space sciences, neuroscience and behavioral health, and bioscience/biotechnology.Apart from travel and three years in Delaware spent earning his master’s degree in physical geography (climatology), Gerbis has spent most of his life in Arizona. He also holds a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Arizona State University’s Cronkite School and a bachelor’s degree in geography (climatology/meteorology), also from ASU.Gerbis briefly “retired in reverse” and moved from Arizona to Wisconsin, where he taught science history and science-fiction film courses at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is glad to be back in the Valley and enjoys contributing to KJZZ’s Untold Arizona series.During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gerbis focused almost solely on coronavirus-related stories and analysis. In addition to reporting on the course of the disease and related research, he delved into deeper questions, such as the impact of shutdowns on science and medicine, the roots of vaccine reluctance and the policies that exacerbated the virus’s impact, particularly on vulnerable populations.