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Partners hope to industrialize production of spider silk

Spider silk is stronger than steel and tougher than both steel and Kevlar. Scientists postulate that, if used as a reinforcing material in plastic automotive parts, the spider silk's energy absorbing properties maybe great enough so that parts might even regain their shape after an accident. Wonderful factoids, yes, but knowing them has not made it any easier to use the material in the plastics industry. A newly announced development agreement could help change that as it speeds the industrialization of spider silk manufacturing.

Matt Defosse

September 7, 2011

1 Min Read
Partners hope to industrialize production of spider silk

The agreement is between AMSilk, which claims to be the first company to produce spider silk biopolymers, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (IAP). The two have joined forces to further development of a spinning process for making high performance fibers from AMSilk's spider silk proteins.

There is no shortage of laboratories keen to replicate spider silk but getting from lab- to industrial scale has been a huge hurdle. To date no industrial spinning process has delivered a fiber that can be compared to natural spider silk as found in a spider web.

But AMSilk says it has enough capacity and quantity of the material to deliver sufficient spider silk material for applications development. AMSilk's spider silk is produced through biotechnology but with an industrial production platform. The new collaboration will match AMSilk's material and biochemical expertise with Fraunhofer's expertise in developing spin processes for biopolymers. The partners expect to deliver a new process for making artificial spider silk fibers for high tech applications.

The development collaboration is scheduled to run for at least two years. AMSilk will own commercial rights of the results with certain benefits for Fraunhofer IAP. AMSilk, founded in 2008, is a commercial spin-off from the Technical University of Munich (Germany) and is headquartered in Martinsried near Munich. If you don't have arachnophobia, then you might enjoy this film from the company about the silk's strength and the company's process for producing it.

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