Spiber- Spider Silk Fibers Material Watch for 2017



North Face Moon Parka from https://www.spiber.jp/

We all have “that friend” who is afraid of spiders. However I don’t there are any arachnophobes working at the Japanese company Spiber. In fact, they believe that spiders are the future for sustainable industrial production. Spiber develops materials that are derived from an ersatz spider silk. They have partnered with North Face to develop the Japanese Moon Parka completely made of the synthetic spider silk called Qmonos. The coat is incredibly sustainable compared to its competition made from nylon, twill, or even waxed cotton.

Spider silk has been long known for its resiliency. It has a great toughness for it’s light weight, and is more elastic and responsive than its competitive fibres. However, farming silk from spider’s is difficult as it requires a lot of spiders to produce small amounts of silk, and arachnids in captivity tend to turn to cannibalism creating a larger problem for manufacturers. Using spider silk industrially is an idea that has been celebrated since 1997 in Janine Benyus’ book Biomimicry Innovation Inspired by Nature. The idea was then adapted in 2002 by Nexia Biotechnologies in Quebec, who produced a BioSteel silk like fibre by cultivating spider protein genes in the milk of goats.

The company Spiber has been studying several hundreds of species of spiders since 2007 to better understand their genetic sequences. Spiber uses genetically modified bacteria to produce synthetic silk proteins. The researchers insert genetically engineered sequences of silk protein DNA into bacteria and feed it with sugar which is turned into the silk protein. Then the proteins can be spun into silk polymers with equipment that mimics the spider’s silk spinning organ.  The biological process, while synthetic, requires no fossil fuels or petroleum.

Silk Spider and Lab Equipment from https://www.wired.com/2015/12/the-north-faces-moon-parka-is-spun-from-faux-spider-silk/

The Moon Parka mimics the resiliency of the fibre by being designed to endure the harsh conditions of the south pole. It shows the materials strength and flexibility, and ability to be aesthetically adaptable. The coat has the ability to be mass produced, and as the development continues it could be available within the next year.

The silk produced by Spiber is not limited to clothing applications. They have a much larger industrial scale manufacturing future planned.  The company plans of developing automobile parts from the polymer, and are working with Toyota to develop shock absorbing materials. It is Spiber’s sustainable goal to push humanity away from petroleum based materials. The cost is currently the largest obstacle, but as more attention is drawn to the manufacturing there will be more invested in developing the right technology to produce the polymer.

Article by: Natasha Rasi


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