Ever marveled at the intricacies of a spider web? Ever been amazed by the wonderful properties of spider silk? This Japanese startup was so fascinated by it that they decided to produce it themselves.
Spiber, established in 2007 as a spin-off from Keio University, is working on next-generation materials made of proteins, starting with spider silk. The company was able to isolate the gene responsible for the production of fibroin, the protein spider silk is made of, and to express it through specifically engineered bacteria. Thus harvesting the bacteria allows it to mass-produce spider silk, something that is impossible to do with actual spiders, as they usually end up eating each other.
Optimising the process over the years, Spiber was able to drastically reduce cost and is now ready to commercialise its product, and the clothing market was chosen as a first step in familiarising consumers with the new material. And what better start than a collaboration with The North Face, an industry leader in outdoor apparel?
The two companies unveiled a new extreme-weather jacket, the “Moon Parka”. Adapted from another design by The North Face, this parka boasts an outer layer entirely made of Spiber’s new material QMONOS (after the Japanese “kumo-no-su”, spider web), and is made to withstand the harsh conditions of the South Pole. It is expected to be commercialised as early as 2016.
Besides having incredible technical properties, Spiber also believes that new protein materials could reduce the clothing market’s dependence on oil for textile manufacturing and improve its environmental impact.