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Graphene-fed Spiders and Our Web of Resource Dependencies 

A material long hailed as being on the cutting edge of materials science, Graphene is making headlines again. And, fitting for fall and people gearing up for Halloween, it involves everyone’s favorite creepy crawlies – arachnids. 
Researchers at the University of Trento in Italy have found that spiders fed with graphene and carbon nanotubes, which had been added to their drinking water, produced silk that was five times stronger, making the webs they built as strong as carbon fibers and Kevlar, which are considered the strongest materials on Earth, according to a recent article in Futurism.   

The unique properties and versatility of Graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms, prompted the European Commission to designate the material an FET – a “Future & Emerging Technologies” Flagship, dedicating a 10-year, 1 billion Euro research and innovation initiative to Graphene.  

The Italian researchers’ discovery is another case in point of how Materials Science is finding new uses for materials, thus shifting the paradigms of resource supply and demand. 

Graphite, from which Graphene is derived is also a key material we will need for next-gen energy storage systems. Meanwhile, the U.S. currently produces zero Graphite, with the last American Graphite mine having closed 25 years ago. Once again, the U.S. finds itself 100% import dependent, relying to a great extent on Chinese supplies of Graphite to meet domestic needs. 

We may not be trapped in webs built by Graphene-doped spiders anytime soon, but the possibilities of harnessing the potential of this discovery seem endless. We are, however, already entangled in a web of foreign mineral resource dependencies, which represent a “clear and present danger” for the U.S., as ARPN’s Dan McGroarty recently outlined in his commentary for Investor’s Business Daily.  It’s time our policy makers took note.