Photo by Sony Pictures
“Dragon Silk,” a form of spider silk spun by genetically engineered silkworms, may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but it could hold a very real key to protecting U.S. troops. Created by Michigan’s Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, the recombinant fiber is the company’s strongest and most flexible to date. It might even protect against bullets, a possibility that has led the Department of Defense to award Kraig Biocraft with a $100,000 grant. The goal: To test its Dragon Silk for anti-ballistic applications such as body armor for soldiers.
Photo by Michael Podger/Unsplash
Five times tougher than steel and thrice as strong as Kevlar, spider silk is one of the strongest substances known to man. Yet it’s been notoriously difficult to cultivate.
For one thing, most spiders are territorial and cannibalistic, so maintaining a steady stock is tricky at best. Mass-producing the material is a whole other problem.
Leveraging research that isolated the proteins that create spider silk, Kraig Biocraft developed a technology that splices spider DNA into silkworms.
Kraig Biocraft will be providing the Army with a series of ballistic “shoot packs” featuring different thread counts, thicknesses, and construction techniques.
Should the Army’s tests prove positive, Kraig Biocraft could receive up to $1 million to take the work even further.
“We’re proud to be working with the Department of Defense to assess the exciting potential of spider silk for military applications,” Kim K. Thompson, CEO and founder of Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, said in a statement. “We are honored that the U.S. Army has selected us for this program. This effort will provide Kraig Labs with the opportunity to validate our longstanding belief that spider silk technology has had an incredible potential for protective and lifesaving materials and expand our ability to design and engineer innovative materials solutions.”
Beyond protection, Dragon Silk could also have a role in surgical procedures, where thin yet durable threads are a particular boon.
[Via Defense One]