Spiderman’s webbing could stop moving train

Washington, Feb uary 26: Its may seem unrealistic when in ‘Spiderman 2′, the superhero uses his webbing to bring a runaway train to a standstill moments before it plummets over the end of the track.

But University of Leicester physics students have revealed that a material with the strength and toughness of spiders’ web could really stop four crowded subway cars.

A group of three fourth year MPhys students calculated the material properties of webbing needed in these conditions – and found that the strength of the web would be proportional to that of real spiders.

Students James Forster, Mark Bryan and Alex Stone first calculated the force needed to stop the four R160 New York City subway cars. To do this, they used the momentum of the train at full speed, the time it takes the train to come to rest after the webs are attached, and the driving force of the powered R160 subway car.

The students found the force Spiderman’s webs exert on the train to be 300,000 newtons. They were then able to calculate the strength and toughness of the webs.

They found that the Young’s modulus – or stiffness – of the web would be 3.12 gigapascals. This is very reasonable for spider’s silk, which ranges from 1.5 gigapascals to 12 gigapascals in the orb-weaver spiders. The toughness of the silk was calculated as almost 500 megajoules per cubic metre. This is in line with web from a Darwin’s Bark Spider – an orb-weaver with the strongest known webbing of any spider.

They concluded that the “friendly neighbourhood” superhero’s webbing is indeed a proportional equivalent of that of a real spider – and, consequently, it would be feasible for him to stop a moving train.

Their paper was published in the latest volume of the University of Leicester’s Journal of Physics Special Topics. (ANI)