Spider silk puts a spin on the clothing industry
By Graham Alabdulla, Contributing Writer
You spot a spider hiding under your bed, or in the corner, and immediately a wave of dread washes over you- you know you are going to have to kill the spider because it’s . . . Scary? Gross? Icky? The spider is actually none of these things; it is helpful, hygienic, and man’s arachnid best friend forever (ABFF).
Spiders play an extremely important role in our ecosystem by keeping the densities of the insect population manageable in the environment. Imagine a world without spiders: fruit flies would cover the world within twenty-four hours. Further, the amazing qualities of spiders do not end with the management of the insect population. Spiders produce a material that fascinates humans to this day: silk. In truth, the silk clothing of today is made from the silk of silkworm, the caterpillar of the silk moth, Bombyx mori. However, clothing made from spider silk might be just around the corner.
Spiber, a Japanese biotechnology company, produced spider silk proteins from sugar. This process made possible the creation of a wearable prototype made in collaboration with North Face called the Moon Parka. The Moon Parka is the first piece of clothing that has an outer layer that is entirely made of spider silk. This development in the clothing industry could remove the dependency on petroleum products and replace it with spider silk because of its high strength and high flexibility. Would you be willing to swap silkworm silk for spider silk?
This is only one of the many applications spider silk may have within human society. These include innovations within the medical field, replacing traditional surgical thread with spider silk, which is thinner, stronger, and completely dissolvable. And, there is rumor to replace personal defense Kevlar vests with a lighter and stronger spider silk vest.
A little known fact of a spider’s strand of silk is that, at the same density, it is stronger than steel. This aspect makes it possible for these mentioned innovations to replace traditional petroleum products. The only limitation with creating these fantastic inventions is the ability to create the needed amount of spider silk.
However, the scientific community has made spider silk using goats and more recently Spiber’s technique. So, the next time you see a spider do not just squash it; first, remember the importance of spiders in ecosystems. And, if you ever walk into a spider web, remember that this could be the replacement for cotton and it could one day be as common as nylon or polyester.