#21 - Working Wood

Spider Silk by Japanese Company Spiber

“We have designed and synthesized over 700 original proteins, based off existing proteins in nature but with modifications in the amino acid sequence,” Japanese company Spiber told ArchiExpo. “We carefully analyze how various changes in different parts of the amino acid sequences affect the final products.”

Proteins, according to Spiber, are on their way to becoming a sustainable next-generation material. “It all starts with spider silk, which is 340 times tougher than steel.”

Moon Parka for The North Face

Eleven years ago, the company began using spider silks as a stepping-stone to other protein materials. “They have the capacity to expand into an entire platform for material development.” Research, analysis and experimentation led Spiber to master the material. In 2015, it created prototypes of outdoor apparel in cooperation with The North Face.

This collaboration resulted in the Moon Parka, an insulating jacket designed for extreme polar expeditions, with a shell made entirely of Qmonos fiber. Currently on an exhibition tour across Japan, the parka should be available for consumer purchase by the end of the year in limited quantities.

“We are consistently contacted by a wide range of both designers and manufacturers. We think this is very exciting because people around the world are starting to realize the huge potential of our protein materials.”

“We have many exciting announcements coming up in the near future!”

Synthetic Spider Thread

“Spider silk,” Spiber says, “the toughest material on Earth, only scratches the surface of the potential offered by proteins.”

The company says it has produced an endless variety of materials, but cannot give more information as of yet to what materials will soon be on the market.

Each individual spider has a unique amino acid sequence. Spiber selected the ideal protein needed for a specific product, making changes to the DNA where necessary and incorporating it into microorganisms. These microorganisms undergo a process of fermentation and create protein based on the this new DNA. That protein is then extracted and processed into different forms.

“For example, with our Moon Parka, we used our own spinning process to process proteins into fibers. These fibers can then be weaved into textile using conventional industry-standard machinery.”

Spiber’s synthetic spider thread, called Qmonos, a word based on the Japanese term for spider web kumonosu, is made from bio-engineered microorganisms containing recombinant DNA.

“In the near future, proteins will be widely used as a basic industrial material, just as metals, glass, and plastics are used today. We have the vision, the drive and the determination to lead this revolution—and our partners are committed to the cause.”

About the Author

American artist Erin Tallman is a journalist for various online publications and is the Editor in Chief of AgriExpo e-magazine and ArchiExpo e-magazine. She has published three books, including her first novel.

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