Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

COE/Structural Mechanics Seminar


The structural engineering skills of orb-web spiders


Prof. Ramon Zaera


University Carlos III of Madrid


Thursday, October 20, 2016 at 11:00:00 AM


MARC Building, Room Auditorium


Dr. Rick Neu
(404) 894-3074


An orb-weaving spider’s likelihood of survival is influenced by its ability to retain prey with minimum damage to its web and at the lowest manufacturing cost. This set of requirements has forced spider silk to evolve towards extreme strength and ductility to a degree that is rarely observed among other materials, either natural or manmade. However, the superior performance of the orb web as an aerial prey trap is not due merely to the exceptional mechanical properties of the silk, but also to outstanding structural topology. The two factors are closely related, with the arrangement of the threads making the most efficient use of the different silks strands spun by the spider. Thus, in the strong evolutionary contrast between topological changes in webs that enhance prey interception and retention and those that reduce energetic costs, the spider finds major opportunities for improvement through subtle –and seemingly irrelevant– structural details.


Ramón Zaera is Professor at the Department of Continuum Mechanics and Structural Analysis, at the University Carlos III of Madrid. BSc, MSc and PhD (1997) in Civil Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Madrid. His scientific work has been related primarily with mechanical characterization materials at high strain rates, development of constitutive equations and their integration algorithms, analysis of dynamic plastic instabilities, and impact problems on aircraft structures. Currently, he is involved in the study of nonlocal and gradient models, dynamics of lattices and mechanics of biological structures.


Refreshments will be served.