News:

New prototype violin made with spiders’ silk

The composite material, which uses the silk’s vibrating properties, has been developed at Imperial College London

June 21, 2016

A composite material including spiders’ silk has been developed at Imperial College London and used to make two violin prototypes.

Luca Alessandrini, a postgraduate from the Dyson School of Design Engineering, developed the material, which was used to make the violins by carbon instrument specialists, mezzo-forte Stringed Instruments and CarbonKlang. The violins feature three strands of golden silk, spun by an Australian Golden Orb Spider, in their top side.

‘The amazing properties of spider’s silk mean that it serves many purposes,’ said Alessandrini. ‘It’s a home, a net for catching food and a means of communicating – via vibrations – when prey is ready to be pounced on and devoured. 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.’

The composite material of silk fibres and a binding agent can be mixed to customise different sounds and theoretically could be used to improve or vary the acoustic properties of any number of instruments.

Alessandrini developed his material in conjunction with the Associazione Nazionale Liutai Artistici Italiani. He also showed the violins to Royal Academy of Music, London professor Peter Sheppard Skaerved, who commented:

‘I have been working with great violinists my entire career and I have been in discussions with makers and players about the limited capabilities of other manmade materials such as carbon fibre. These have not seemed to offer the organic subtleties of wood. 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.’

Watch the violins being played

Imperial College London

Imperial College London

Watch: Japanese scientist creates violin strings from spider silk

1 Comment on New prototype violin made with spiders’ silk

  1. Luca Alessandrini // June 23, 2016 at 2:41 pm // Reply

    Hello everyone,

    I am the designer that realised this research and that made possible these prototype to be created.

    I am really pleased to be published here on the extremely prestigious Strad.
    Actually, I wasn’t expecting this at all. This project started as a scientific and design research.

    I would just add just a couple of VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

    1) I would mention that the realisation of these prototypes has been possible only due to the rent of a moulds set created from the carbon fibre violin brand: Mezzo-Forte (http://www.mezzo-forte.de/en/).

    2) Please, don’t take IN ANY WAY these two prototypes as finished products, these are just proofs of concept of my research about acoustic customisation. The material demonstrate unexpected great acoustic properties, but the experimentations are only in the early stage.

    I had the chance to DEMONSTRATE that it is possible to CUSTOMISE the ACOUSTIC PROPERTIES of a MATERIAL and the object that is made of it. So these prototypes are telling us that one day (possibly soon) will be possible to CUSTOMISE the SOUND of a MUSICAL INSTRUMENT, as per the musician wants.

    They are only the 1st and the 2nd prototype and they are already very special instruments, covering new ranges of harmonics and giving new expression possibilities for a musician, but they still need a lot of work and experimentations before to realise a finished violin.

    I hope you could appreciate these objects not only as per they are right now, but for the OPPORTUNITY that they representing in a close future.

    Thank you very much for your comments, positives and negatives.

    Luca

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