Rhinegold Photo credit: Imperial College London

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Violin created using spiders’ silk

11:21, 21st June 2016

A new violin has been created which exploits the resonating properties of spiders’ silk.

Luca Alessandrini, a postgraduate from the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College London, created a violin from a composite material, impregnating its top side with three strands of golden silk (one of the strongest in the world) spun by an Australian Golden Orb Spider.

Photo: Stuart Humphreys
Photo: Stuart Humphreys

When played, the spiders’ silk vibrates the violin’s composite casing (a phenomenon known as propagation velocity).

The different fibres from which the violin is made, combined with the method of mixing them together, enabled Alessandrini to engineer the instrument’s propagation velocity.

This technique could be used to customise the acoustics of any musical instruments, or applied to the manufacturing process of other products such as speakers, amplifiers and headphones.

‘The amazing properties of spider’s silk mean that it serves many purposes,’ Alessandrini said. ‘Spiders’ silk has only previously been exploited as string in bows for instruments, but I’ve discovered that the amazing resonating property of spiders’ silk has massive potential uses in instruments themselves.’

Alessandrini developed his prototype violin in conjunction with the Associazione Nazionale Liutai Artistici Italiani. Its founder, Gualtiero Nicolini, put him in contact with 20 of the world’s leading luthiers in Cremona, Italy.

Peter Sheppard Skaerved said: ‘My encounter with the prototype instrument developed by Luca has filled me with excitement. This approach offers a tremendous opportunity to move forward instrument making, using new materials in a way I have long hoped.’

Alessandrini now plans to use more sophisticated technologies and modelling processes in the manufacturing process, and is establishing a start-up business. He predicts the technology will be in the marketplace by 2017.

The violin will go on exhibit at the Imperial Final Show 2016, 6 July; ShowRCA, 26 June – 3 July and the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, 4 July – 10 July 2016.

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