Finding effective ways to clean up pollutants from the air has become quite a challenge for quite a number of scientific teams. An interesting approach was taken by researchers from University of Oxford, where the group studied the electrostatic properties of spider webs. They discovered that the glue, which covers the web, attracts not only insects, but also any other electrically charged particles flying in the air.
The findings suggest that spider webs could be used effectively to clean up pollutants, especially since the charge of the particles that are attracted by the coating glue does not matter. Professor Fritz Vollrath, and his team, compare the filtering ability of the spiders’ traps to this of expensive industrial sensors, and claim that they would be just as efficient.
Besides cleaning up toxic aerosols and even pesticides, the study also proposes that spider webs could be just as effectively used as monitoring devices for pollution levels. This could simply be done by studying the shape of the webs, which is determined by the type of pollutants previously trapped in them that have been eaten by the spider.
The team released a video, which demonstrates exactly how webs attract particles. The fact that everything which flies generates an electric charge, and the ability of the webs to attract these objects, should definitely be explored further. This could be the first time scientists find a cheap natural mean to monitor air quality. Of course, additional tests should be done in order to monitor specific levels of pollutants, but certainly the study opens up a whole new horizon for future research. The findings might even contribute to better understanding the reasons behind the depleting bee population, as pesticide concentrations will have an influence on the shape of the spider webs.
Image (c) Oxford University