Spider Silk: The Super Material of the Future (Infographic)

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At Sierra Cases, we like to stay on top of the latest innovations in material technology, and one of the most revolutionary materials we’ve seen in a long time is spider silk. Being hailed as “the super material of the future,” spider silk is more than five times stronger than steel, ten times stronger than Kevlar, more elastic than a rubber band and yet can be found in some of our own backyards.

We wanted to take a closer look at this surprising and interesting new material, so we put together this infographic, “Spider Silk: The Super Material Of The Future.” Some exciting aspects we found in our research are its potential uses as bulletproof clothing, as a new kind of protective airbag, and as artificial skin for burn victims.

If you like the infographic, please share it with others on social media. You also can add the infographic on your website using the HTML code below. All we ask is that you credit us, Sierra Cases, the leading distributor of rugged, rack mountable transit cases, as the source.

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Full Infographic Text Transcription:

Spider Silk: The Super Material of the Future

Stronger than steel:

  • Spider silk: comprised of protein chains for strength and unlinked areas for flexibility
  • At least 5x stronger than most forms of steel
    • Silk from the Madagascar Bark Spider can be up to 10x stronger than steel
  • It’s more elastic than a rubber band
  • It is extremely resilient – distinct threads able to absorb 3x as much energy than Kevlar

(Kevlar – one of the most sturdy materials weight-to-weight)

How can we use spider silk how can we not?

Bulletproof Clothing

  • 2012: Scientists created thin, lightweight body armor from spider silk proteins
    • the proteins were woven into artificial silk fibers
    • the silk was grafted with human epidermis
    • the hybrid skin can repel a slow-moving bullet from a .22-caliber rifle
    • only 4 layers of the material was used
      • standard Kevlar vests use 33 layers
    • This hybrid skin has potential to be 3x as strong as a Kevlar vest

Underwater Adhesive

  • The US Navy has funded two years of research at Utah State University
    • Researching the construction of a spider silk adhesive that can work in wet conditions
  • Many spiders live near water or in rainforests
    • webs seem to be mostly unaffected by water
  • The Navy wants to know if spider silk proteins could be used underwater
    • they envision a type of super, one-sided Velcro-like fastener
  • The Office of Naval Research granted $173k for the research
  • Tests will involve creating disks and tapes from spider silk proteins
    • These will be attached and pressed to multiple surfaces
    • They will measure the amount of force required to pull objects apart

Artificial Skin for Burn Victims

  • Artificial skin requires very specific conditions to grow
  • Collagen or synthetic fibers are used to allow artificial skin to merge with natural skin
    • these materials are weak and don’t biodegrade quickly
  • German scientists have experimented with spider silk to make artificial skin
    • they harvested golden orb web silk and wove the threads across steel frame
    • they seeded the silk mesh with skin-building cells and nutrients
    • healthy skin grew on the mesh
      • stronger, more flexible and more biodegradable than current artificial skin
    • spider silk also appears to aid in regeneration of neurons and blood vessels
    • some silks may have antimicrobial properties for faster healing

Airbags

  • Current airbags are better than nothing, but they often cause injuries
  • Some companies are interested in spider silk airbags
    • They would envelop the person like a web
    • the silk would absorb the force

Surgical Sutures

  • Surgeons currently use thread or silkworm silk for stitching
  • Spider silk threads are even thinner and stronger
  • This could be hugely important for nerve or eye surgery

Scientists are also working on using spider silk to make

  • biodegradable water bottles
  • flexible bridge suspension cables
  • unrippable writing paper

Spiders have to be milked…and they do NOT like it.

(Just kidding, but how DO we get all this spider silk?)

  • Genetically modified plants and animals provide much more silk than spiders
  • Spiders are aggressive, territorial, and cannibalistic making them difficult to farm
  • Scientists have put spider genes into plants and animals to solve the issue

Spider Goats

  • Researchers from the University of Wyoming have put spiders’ silk-spinning genes into goats
  • They harvest the silk protein from the goats milk
  • Only a small percentage of these goats end up with the spider gene
    • 2010: Seven kids were tested and only three had the spider protein gene
    • researchers will collect milk from the goats
      • the spider silk protein can be purified in high quantities
  • Other than the production of spider silk proteins, the goats are just like any other goat

(Alfalfa)

  • These same researchers plan to put silk genes into alfalfa plants in the future
    • Alfalfa is easy to grow
    • It also has a high protein content (20-25%)
    • Ideal for producing large quantities of spider silk protein

Silkworms

  • Unmodified silkworms produce a very fragile silk, but they produce a lot of it
  • Silkworms are capable of spinning nearly a kilometer of silk in a few days
  • This silk is already widely cultivated
    • 1999: Rajamangala Institute of Technology in Thailand
      • Researchers developed body armor using silkworm silk
      • 16 layers of the silk stopped a 9mm bullet
      • also tested to provide protection against rifle shots and .22 caliber handguns
  • Scientists have now been able to modify silkworms to produce a hybrid of worm and spider silk
    • this hybrid is as strong as spider silk
  • The ultimate modification would be silkworms with bark spider genes
    • This would mean fast production of silk that is 100% tougher than all other silks
    • 10x stronger than Kevlar

What would all this spider silk mean for the world?

  • Soldiers would have super lightweight bulletproof clothing
  • Burn victims would have much better quality artificial skin
  • Airbags would not cause injury
  • Bandages could help regenerate skin cells
  • The Navy could attach adhesives underwater

Sources:

Kelvin Aist

About Kelvin Aist

Kelvin Aist is a Cofounder and Sales Manager at Sierra Cases. He has designed and sold cases and packaging solutions his entire career. He frequently blogs for Case Advisor.

Kelvin Aist

Written By

Kelvin Aist is a Cofounder and Sales Manager at Sierra Cases. He has designed and sold cases and packaging solutions his entire career. He frequently blogs for Case Advisor.

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