Japanese startup Spiber recently created a synthetic spider silk that is every bit as durable, stretchy, and light as the real thing. The material is tougher than kevlar, lighter than steel, and it can be stretched 40% beyond its original length without breaking. Applications for Spiber silk abound – from artificial blood vessels to strengthened space suits and crash-resistant materials for cars.
Spiber developed its super strong material by studying the makeup of protein fibers in spider silk. The protein fibroin is what makes spider silk so resilient, so the lab turned to bioengineered bacteria to replicate artificial fibroin. The artificial fibroin is then spun into Spiber “silk.”
Spiber has already created 250 different prototypes of the faux silk, tweaking synthesized fibroin genes (called QMONOS) to grow variants with the help of bacteria. The genes are synthesized quickly, produce usable quantities in only three days, and one gram of the synthesized protein can yield 5.6 miles of Spiber silk.
The faux fibroins are remarkably versatile – they can take the form of films, gels, sponges, powders or nanofibers. Although the research has only just begun, Spiber researchers are confident that their faux spider silk will transform industries around the world.