Why Investors Are Wrapped Up in Amazing Spider Silk Technology

Prepare to be amazed in that special way that only remarkable science can amaze you.

Remember the first time you saw liquid nitrogen in person, or watched a butterfly emerge from its cocoon? THAT kind of amazed.

Now let's talk spider silk.

Japan-based startup Spiber Inc. says it has found a way to make and use artificial spider silk.

Why is that a big deal?

To fully understand, you have to be aware of the astonishing qualities of spider silk.

Spider silk factoid #1: You probably didn't know that all spiders produce silk, and the majority can produce up to 7 different kinds. They are made from various protein sequences.

You know the orb weaving spider that hangs out on your front porch and makes a giant web you have to avoid whenever you go out there?

Well, she can actually spin 7 different types of silk.

One is for the structure of the web. Another is for the "capture" spiral that goes around the web. One is for swathing prey to wrap them up. One is used in reproduction. The list goes on!

Spider silk factoid #2: Certain spider silks are gram for gram 5 times stronger than steel, but can also stretch four times its original length without breaking.

Scientists say that a spider web's ability to adapt to different levels of stress makes it remarkably stable.

Spider silk factoid #3: Spider silk is antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, and completely biodegradable.

Are you starting to see any real world applications yet?

Lighter, stronger, and more durable clothing that is 3 times stronger than Kevlar.

Artificial hypoallergenic skin for burn victim and antimicrobial bandages.

Blood vessel and nerve reconstruction.

Spider silk car airbags that don't injure you when they launch, but can absorb more force.

The list of possible applications goes on and on.

But for now, we have Spiber's claim that it can mass produce spider silk, and some exciting, if not seductive, proof: a cocktail dress spun from Spiber's "Qmonos" artificial spider silk material.

Spider Silk Technology Dress

(Credit: Spiber)

Companies have been trying to manufacture artificial silk for years, but were consistently foiled by the details.

For instance, scientists don't have enough spider-silk material to make full-scale test products. This is because spiders are highly territorial, making silk difficult to mass produce.

Researchers have also tried recreating the spider silk protein sequences by adding genes that code for spider silk into silk worms, and even goats, who can form the proteins in milk production.

The problem with this method is the inability to take these recreated proteins and spin it into thread.

Spiber's solution is to use synthesized genes that stimulate bacteria to produce the spider silk protein. It then applies technology it developed to culture the microbes and weave the protein into fabric.

Spider Silk Technology Trend Watch

Spiber's artificial spooled silk.

Spiber Inc. states that it hopes to have an initial mass production of 10 tons a year starting in 2015. It is joining forces with Kojima Industries, a car part manufacturer, to make this happen.

It has also applied for 16 patents on its spider silk technology.

And Spiber isn't the only company that wants in on the spider silk action. A German firm Amsilk recently announced plans to produce artificial spider silk.

Investors should be on the lookout for opportunities with this highly applicable amazing new technology.

Related Articles: