The study used spider silk, but Miles explained that any fiber that is thin enough could be used in the same way.
While the spider silk picks up the direction of airflow with great accuracy, that information has to be translated into an electronic signal to be of use.
"We coated the spider silk with gold and put it in a magnetic field to obtain an electronic signal," said Miles. "It's actually a fairly simple way to make an extremely effective microphone that has better directional capabilities across a wide range of frequencies."
The study is a game-changer for microphones but may also tell us something unique about spiders, said Miles. He and Zhou speculate that because spider silk is so good at sensing air flow, it's possible spiders can hear through their own web on top of what they are already known to hear through the small hairs on their bodies.