Spider silk has some amazing properties. Among other things, it's as strong as steel, tougher than Kevlar, and lighter than carbon fiber. Unfortunately, however, farming spiders for their silk would be a very impractical venture. That's why some groups have looked into creating synthetic spider silk. Japanese company Spiber is one of those, and it recently joined forces with The North Face to create a parka made from its QMONOS fiber. Called the Moon Parka, the garment is reportedly "the world’s first piece of clothing made from artificial protein material."
Natural spider silk's impressive qualities are due mainly to a protein that it's made from, known as fibroin. Creating completely man-made fibroin in the lab has proven to be a daunting task, so Spiber instead chose to decode the gene responsible for the production of fibroin in spiders, and then bioengineered bacteria with recombinant DNA to produce the protein. That synthetic fibroin is subsequently spun into QMONOS, which is the Japanese word for "spider."
The process is described in more detail, in our previous article on Spiber.
The prototype Moon Parka is based on the design of The North Face's existing Antarctica Parka, and features an outer shell woven on an automated manufacturing line, completely from QMONOS. Although the fibers can be dyed any number of colors, the primary gold hue of the parka is the natural web color of the golden orb spider.
As pointed out by Goldwin Inc (which markets The North Face in Japan), not only does the material offer several performance advantages over traditional petroleum-based polymer fibers, but its production process is also considerably more eco-friendly. Additionally, the material is biodegradable.
Although some challenges do still need to be met before Moon Parkas can be mass-produced, Spiber is aiming for a 2016 commercial release of the coat. There's currently no word on estimated pricing.
You can see the production process, in the video below.
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