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JUNE 2023

US Army to Test Armor of Spider Silk – Genetically Modified Silkworm Fiber

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US Army to Test Armor of Spider Silk - Genetically Modified Silkworm Fiber

Photo: Getty Images

A Michigan company that produces a spider silk, one of the strongest substances in the world, has received a contract with the US Army to test the material for use in body armor.

The material, called ‘Dragon Silk’, is produced by Kraig Biocraft Labs. The company uses modified silkworms for manufacturing the material that is similar in strength to kevlar. Scientists had to inject pieces of spider DNA into silkworm eggs to make them to spin spider-like silk.

“In 2000, researchers first isolated and sequenced the key proteins that create spider silk (ampullate spidroin-1, spidroin-2, etc.). That let scientists reproduce spider silk proteins in yeast, E coli bacteria and other substances in somewhat the same way as pharmaceutical companies produce proteins for drugs. But these methods didn’t yield a lot of spider fabric,” NextGov reported.

Kraig Biocraft Labs has received $100,000 for testing of ‘shoot packs’. If the material holds up under fire well, the amount could be raised to $1 million.

“We are going to provide them a series of different thread counts, thicknesses, construction techniques that they will test against standard material performance specifications,” Kraig COO Jon Rice said.

While so-called Dragon Silk is only about two-thirds as strong as kevlar, and therefore not a suitable full replacement, the elasticity of the silk is what make it useful.

“But Kevlar has an elasticity of 3 percent,” Rice continued. “If you have a Kevlar fiber, it’s not going to move at all. Our fibers have a 30 to 40 percent elasticity before they break,” Jon Rice added.

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