Spider silk, a protein fibre produced by spiders, is growing popular in the textile industry because of its strength and elasticity. Jon Rice, Chief Operations Officer (COO) of Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, Inc discusses this emerging industry and its possible applications with Fibre2Fashion.com
How strong is spider silk? How can it benefit the textile industry?
According to Wikipedia, the most commonly reported strength of spider silk is 1.3 gigapascals (GPA). However, each species of spiders is different. Some are stronger than that.
What is most exciting about spider silk is not merely its strength, but the combination of strength and elasticity that no synthetic fibre can match. Technically called toughness, the mix of strength and stretch that spider silk offers has tremendous applications in textiles. While materials like para-aramids offer outstanding strength, they have little ability to stretch and move. Similarly, materials like nylon offer high elasticity, but they are comparatively weak. Spider silk brings these benefits together in a single material, resulting in a strong and flexible fabric.
Which new applications of spider silk are on the anvil for the textile industry?
At Kraig, we're exploring a number of different applications for spider silk textiles, which range from performance and fashionwear to purely functional fabrics for protective applications. There has been a lot of exploration into the different uses of spider silk in textiles over the last several years. The challenge has not been in developing applications, but in the ability to produce enough silk to transition from experimentation to production. Because of our approach in engineering specialty silkworms to produce recombinant spider silk, we believe Kraig is uniquely positioned to address this gap between application ideas and sustainable, cost-effective, full-scale silk production.
Which are the biggest markets for spider silk? Which countries are going to join the bandwagon in the near future?
We see several different application-driven markets that are very exciting to us. I believe there is a significant potential in places like India and Italy for fashionwear. We're noticing considerable interest from the performance fashionwear industry in the United States of America and in Europe. I believe the adoption of spider silk textiles will be driven by demonstrated performance in target market applications, rather than by any specific country or region.
Which innovations in spider silk are most talked about?
At Kraig, we are very excited about our June announcement regarding the creation of our Dragon Silk line. This was the first reported creation of a recombinant spider silk demonstrating higher strength and more flexibility than native spider silk. Dragon Silk points to a very important premise which we at Kraig have long believed in. We believe that creating sustainable spider silk isn't the limit of our gene splicing technology, but only the beginning of what can be achieved. We continue to push for higher performing fibres as well as other applications using our silkworm technology to produce specialty proteins.
Can spider silk serve fashion purposes?
Yes, we believe spider silk has the potential to offer an exclusivity-paired, unmatched material performance that makes it well suited for fashion applications.
Which will be your core areas of focus in the next two years?
Our core focus over the next year will be getting our spider silk technology into end-products marketed to our various target applications. The technology is now robust enough to support what we expect to be a significant demand for our silk. Supporting this growth will be a significant investment, and focus will be on creating a production centre for Kraig silk and our other recombinant proteins. We are already laying the groundwork for this growth, and we hope to be able to announce that progress shortly.
What is the growth percentage that Kraig Laboratories has achieved in the last fiscal? What is the target set for this fiscal?
As of now, Kraig has not been selling products in the market. We would rather work with partners to explore potential applications.
Published on: 30/09/2015
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.
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