Company develops technology to mass-produce 'spider silk' fabric

May 25, 2013

By TARO MIZOGUCHI/ Staff Writer

A venture capital company has developed the technology to mass-produce synthetic spider silk fabric, moving one step closer to marketing a tough and stretchy "dream fabric."

Spiber Inc. of Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture, demonstrated one application of its technology by displaying a dress made of the synthetic spider silk fabric on May 24 at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo.

Spider silk is four times stronger than steel and more elastic than nylon. However, it has been difficult to artificially raise spiders in the manner of silkworms because spiders tend to be highly territorial, and in some species, the female eats its male partner after mating.

Spiber Inc. was able to synthesize genes to allow simple microorganisms to produce the same proteins created by spiders in spinning their silk. Those genes were inserted into bacteria and cultivated to manufacture the protein. The company also developed technology to weave that protein into fabric form, making possible the mass-production of synthetic spider silk fabric.

The fabric is called "QMONOS," read "kumonosu" or spider web.

"This fabric can be used in various industries, such as automobiles and medicine," said Kazuhide Sekiyama, Spiber president. "It is a major first step toward a manufacturing process that does not depend on petroleum."

By TARO MIZOGUCHI/ Staff Writer
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A dress made of artificial spider silk fabric (Taro Mizoguchi)

A dress made of artificial spider silk fabric (Taro Mizoguchi)

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  • A dress made of artificial spider silk fabric (Taro Mizoguchi)

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