According to a new paper published in the journal PNAS, that’s because the tiny droplets of “watery glue” that coat the spider’s silk act as a spool that reels in loose thread and keep it from sagging or stretching. It’s a fine balance between the elasticity of the silk and the surface tension of the sticky droplets. With that as their inspiration, a team of researchers from Oxford University and the Universit√© Pierre et Marie Curie were able to recreate the the technique using plastic filaments coated in oil droplets. Observe:

According to the team’s lead Dr. Herv√© Elettro, the synthetic spider silk, which they’re calling a “liquid wire,” could prove to be incredibly useful in the fields of materials, engineering and medicine.
“Our bio-inspired hybrid threads could be manufactured from virtually any components,” Elettro wrote. “These new insights could lead to a wide range of applications, such as microfabrication of complex structures, reversible micro-motors, or self-tensioned stretchable systems.”