Synthetic spider silk could be the biggest technological advance in clothing since nylon

Discussion in 'Architecture & Engineering' started by Plazma Inferno!, Jul 5, 2016.

  1. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

    After years of hype and false starts in creating a synthetic version of spider silk, including one now-bankrupt effort that involved genetically modified goats producing it in their milk, a few companies think they’ve figured it out. The two leading the pack are Spiber, a Japanese company, and a California-based startup called Bolt Threads. Bolt Threads believes it has the edge, and that spider silk is only the beginning of what it can do.
    But there's a drawback. Unlike silkworm silk, which silkworms produce to make their cocoons, spider silk can’t be farmed in large quantities because spiders are cannibals, and will eat one another in close quarters.
    Bolt Threads doesn’t use spiders to make its silk. The principal ingredients are genetically modified yeast, water, and sugar. The raw silk is produced through fermentation, much like brewing beer, except instead of the yeast turning the sugar into alcohol, they turn it into the raw stuff of spider silk. Bolt Threads spins that into threads using a method similar to the wet-spinning process used to create cellulose-based fibers such as Lyocell. Levin says it’s molecularly the same as natural spider silk, except for a few deliberate variations that only a chemical biologist would recognize.
    Synthetic spider silk could be used for everything from automobile parts to medical devices to performance outdoor gear, which is the area that’s attracting some of the most attention thus far.
    Edont Knoff likes this.
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  3. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

    The Army is Testing Genetically Engineered Spider Silk for Body Armor

    Spider silk is one of nature’s toughest substances, similar in strength to the Kevlar plastic found in bulletproof vests but much more flexible. Kraig Biocraft, a company out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, genetically altered silkworms to produce a fiber that’s similar to pure spider silk. Today, they announced an Army contract to test this so-called Dragon Silk for possible use in body armor.
    However, Dragon Silk probably won't be a direct replacement for Kevlar, which has a strength of 3 gigapascals. Spider silk has a strength of 2 gigapascals, only about two-thirds as strong. But Kevlar has an elasticity of 3 percent, while Dragon Silk fibers have a 30 to 40 percent elasticity before they break.
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