The well dressed soldier of the future may be wearing bullet-proof material made from spider silk.
A Lansing, Michigan based company has genetically engineered silk worms to produce spider silk that could one day be woven into light, protective garments.
Kraig Biocraft Laboratories CEO Kim Thompson tells Live Science it’s a natural fit. “Spider silk in nature has truly unique properties. If you think about a spider’s web, it’s designed by nature to intercept an airborne missile: a fly or another flying insect.”
The silk naturally stretches and absorbs the energy of the captured prey, he added. “If you do the mathematical calculations, the weight of the fly, its speed, and the size of the individual fiber you capture it in, the strength-to-weight ratio is off the scale,” Thompson said.
Spider silk is light and flexible, and is stronger by weight than high-grade steel
Scientists take a DNA sequence from a spider and chemically code it to insert the protein into a silk worm. At a certain point in the worm’s development, the DNA switches on and the worm produces spider silk.
One advantage to using silk worms is that they easily pass the spider DNA to the next generations.
The result, Thompson hopes, is a lightweight, flexible material that is stronger than Kevlar.