[Image above] Credit: Spiber; Vimeo
Spider silk has been a buzz-worthy trend in materials science lately as scientists continue the mission to scale up synthetic spider silk in the lab that rivals the impressive strength and durability of the real thing.
And progress in this area is definitely being made. Scientists at Bolt Threads in Emeryville, Calif., have made strides in their work to develop a scalable way to create synthetic spider silk-like fibers by fermenting spider silk proteins from bioengineered yeast.
But Bolt Threads isn’t the only company hard at work in the lab developing synthetic spider silk.
Japanese company Spiber is also on the bandwagon, and it recently joined forces with high-performance sportswear outfitter The North Face to create a parka made from genetically engineered spider silk fiber.
The prototype, called the Moon Parka, is the “world’s first coat whose outer shell is spun from synthetic spider silk,” according to a recent Popular Science article.
After eight years of research and development, Spiber has bioengineered 656 spider silk genetic variations into microbes to create its material QMONOS (Japanese for spider web) for the Moon Parka.
Spiber’s process for making spider silk is different from the method Bolt Threads uses, however. Spiber’s process makes the fibers by “brewing spider silk protein from its engineered microbes, and then purifying the protein into a fine powder. The powder is excreted through syringe-like needles to create fibers, which are then spun into thread,” the article explains.
In a video produced by Spiber about the technology, the company explains that its team has “extensively studied the diverse genetic designs found in nature” and has “developed advanced methods to create new, tailor-made materials designed at the molecular level.”
Credit: Spiber; Vimeo
This technology has potential applications in the apparel, medical, and auto markets—and it’s significantly less polluting than manufacturing practices currently used across these industries, especially when it comes to textiles that use synthetic polymer materials like polyester and nylon, which require massive amounts of energy and fossil fuels to produce.
Spiber aims to have the Moon Parka ready for commercial release some time in 2016, so stay tuned for the latest spin on this new technology.