Polartec, a provider of innovative and sustainable textile solutions, and Kraig Biocraft Laboratories (Kraig), a biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of spider silk, have announced that they plan to bring to market the first fabrics made from spider silk. Initially developed for specialized military applications, these first-of-their-kind materials made from recombinant spider silk are intended for eventual use in the global market for high performance textiles and apparel.
Among the strongest fibers produced in nature, scalable and cost-effective production of spider silk represents a ‘holy grail’ of material science, the companies report. Kraig possesses the exclusive right to use patented spider silk gene sequences in silkworms, which is the first way to mass produce these fibers cost effectively and responsibly. (Spiders cannot be raised in colonies and competitors rely on genetically engineered E.coli bacteria to make silk, which produces high levels of carbon dioxide in addition to being cost prohibitive.)
These fully renewable, biodegradable and biocompatible ‘super fibers’ are thin, lightweight, flexible, resilient, extraordinarily strong, and display strength-to-weight ratios more comparable to aramid fibers than other current performance fibers, . In apparel applications, the possibilities of recombinant spider silks are particularly exciting, realizing unprecedented combinations of physical properties such as luxurious feel and breathable comfort with top durability.
In joint development since 2016, Polartec and Kraig are applying the performance characteristics of spider silk into yarns for military-grade textiles.
“This project combines two of our most important innovation missions: providing best-in-class textiles to our Nation’s military personnel, and our investment in a fully biodegradable product line,” says Gary Smith, Polartec CEO. “Our partnership with Kraig has the potential to be as revolutionary as when we created the first performance fabrics made from post-consumer recycled plastics in 1993.”
Polartec recently announced its Polartec Eco-Engineering™ commitment to using 100 percent biodegradable and recycled materials across its entire product line through another partnership with Unifi and CiCLO. For example, this new standard for sustainable textiles will include the creation of the world’s first fully recycled and biodegradable fleece, other knits, insulation fills and breathable waterproof fabrics.