Spiber, Bolt Threads lead pack in race for synthetic spider silk

You may have heard scientists are exploring uses for spider silk. This incredible material is lightweight, yet stronger than steel or Kevlar. But It took over four years to collect all the natural spider silk needed for one piece of cloth 11 feet long.

Natural Spider Silk Cape

Natural Spider Silk Cape

The race to produce synthetic spider silk

The challenges of natural spider silk have not stopped entrepreneurs from trying to replicate the silk artificially. One of the first attempts was using Genetically modified goats, whose milk  was modified to contain the stuff. Despite a lot of hype, the company is now bankrupt.

But one company in Japan has actually not only produced spider silk artificially, they’ve even created a proof of concept product, in combination with North Face.  The Moon Parka is $1,000 USD and for sale exclusively in Japan. In spite of the high sticker price, it’s not too much more expensive than a comparable quality jacket made of other materials.

Moon Parka of Artificial Spider Silk Spiber

Moon Parka of Artificial Spider Silk by Spiber

Even in its early stages, Spiber’s product is at least 3x as strong as nylon, so theoretically this would allow manufacturers to make a jacket lighter and thinner while preserving functionality.

Spiber’s main competitor at this point is Bolt Threads. Bolt uses a fermentation process with genetically modified yeast, water and sugar to create its silk (whereas Spiber uses an e.Coli bacteria). The yeast is quite inexpensive in comparison to e.Coli, so Bolt hopes it’s fabric will be no more expensive than wool or natural silk.

Why is spider silk important for vegans?

If superior silk is made artificially, it might have an impact on the silkworm industry, which is one of the saddest things you will ever witness. About 10 billion Bombyx Mori die every year to produce the silk needed by the world’s textile industry, and almost all of them are boiled to death to produce silk cocoons. Ahimsa silk might be familiar to some of you, but it produces an inferior silk that is in low demand because it allows the Bombyx Mori to chew its way out of the cocoon, shortening the silk fibres.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to see clothing manufacturers embrace a material that causes less harm and is superior to its natural counterpart? I can’t wait to see more Spiber/ Bolt Threads silk on the market!

What do you think? Join the conversation!

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