New partnership looks to industrialize spider silk production

September 15, 2011 by Bob Yirka report

(PhysOrg.com) -- For thousands of years, human beings have looked with envy upon the silk webs spun by spiders; not only are they stronger than steel but they are tougher too (a vest made of spider web material can stop bullets better than Kevlar) and can be stretched farther than rubber before breaking. It’s only in recent years however, that anyone has been able to recreate the webs made naturally by spiders, and now, the company that did it, AMSilk, is teaming up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research to figure out a way to mass produce the stuff.

The problem with trying to mass produce spider web material up to now was in building and maintaining spider farms that could produce in sufficient quantities to make it cost effective. AMSilk took another approach, in that they embarked on a mission to figure out how to create spider without having to use actual spiders.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
AMSilk has developed a unique process for producing biopolymers such as spider silk on an industrial scale.

To do that, they began studying the genes of , which is essentially a protein, and then sought out a means for manipulating a harmless variant of the E. Coli bacteria to reproduce it for them in what is known as a bio-reactor (a similar process has been used for years to make other proteins such as insulin).

And that’s exactly what they did; they embedded the spider silk gene into the bacteria causing it to produce the spider silk protein; as the bacterium multiplies so too does the spider silk protein. Thus to produce their silk product all they have to do is cultivate a bunch of the bacteria and then feed it a solution of sugar, salt and a few other micronutrients, then reap the rewards of their efforts. Though this method, they’ve been able to produce products for clients on a semi-custom basis rather than as a means of mass production.

To get around this problem AMSilk is teaming up with Fraunhofer's (who have expertise in creating spin processes for development of biopolymers) hoping that together they can figure out a way to produce their home-grown material in quantities large enough to compete with other synthetic products, such as Kevlar.

The partnership is expected to run two years, by which time, both companies expect to be mass producing spider silk for applications ranging from medical implant coatings, to spring-back type automobile parts.

Explore further: Scientist Will Examine Spider Silk Use for Sutures

More information: Press release

Related Stories

Fascinating Spider Silk

April 4, 2007

Stronger than steel and more elastic than rubber: spider silk is unsurpassed in its expandability, resistance to tearing, and toughness. Spider silk would be an ideal material for a large variety of medical and technical ...

Scientists breed goats that produce spider silk

May 31, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers from the University of Wyoming have developed a way to incorporate spiders' silk-spinning genes into goats, allowing the researchers to harvest the silk protein from the goats’ milk for a variety ...

Male black widows look for well-fed mates

July 7, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- According to a new study published in Animal Behaviour, a male black widow spider is able to identify a female spider that has eaten well by simply taking a few steps on the web she spins. Finding a well-fed ...

Recommended for you

How to look for a few good catalysts

July 30, 2015

Two key physical phenomena take place at the surfaces of materials: catalysis and wetting. A catalyst enhances the rate of chemical reactions; wetting refers to how liquids spread across a surface.

Findings illuminate animal evolution in protein function

July 27, 2015

Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond researchers recently teamed up to explore the inner workings of cells and shed light on the 400–600 million years of evolution between humans and early animals ...

Yarn from slaughterhouse waste

July 29, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a yarn from ordinary gelatine that has good qualities similar to those of merino wool fibers. Now they are working on making the yarn even more water resistant.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
First there were spiders. Then, the spider pig. Then, there were spider goats. And now, we have spider stomach bugs, weavin' it up in your gut.
nizzim
not rated yet Sep 16, 2011
Sweeeeeeet
fmfbrestel
not rated yet Sep 16, 2011
The old fashioned way of milking spiders can still produce usable fibers, its just slow and expensive.
http://www.amnh.o...?src=e_h
Strongest table cloth ever made! seriously, check that out!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.