With a strength five times greater than steel and three times tougher than kevlar, one European company has invented a way to artificially produce real spider silk worthy of Spider-Man himself.
AMSilk was able to create the incredibly strong and durable “webbing” by genetically modifying E. coli bacteria with genes from the European garden cross spider, giving it the ability to create silk according to a Geekosystem report. The process has opened the door to producing commercially sized amounts of spider silk for retail and other purposes.
The company has already started selling the silk in the form of a shampoo additive to moisturize and smooth skin, and the “other super-material applications” are not far into the future.
”This is scalable technology,” AMSilk Managing Director Axel H. Leimer told Chemical and Engineering News. “If someone ordered 1 ton, we could make it. We have already made a half a ton.”
During a scene in Spider-Man 2, Marvel Comics’ infamous web-slinger famously stops an out-of-control New York train running at full speed by slinging a net of about ten lines of webbing, each with a thickness of less than a half-inch.
The scene would actually be possible with production-quality spider silk, according to a molecular biologist, materials scientist, and chemist who has been trying to synthesize spider silk for 25 years.
“We calculated roughly how thick the fibers were, how many of them he had attached to the walls, how much the locomotive and people weighed, and how fast it appeared to be going,” Utah State University professor of biology and biological engineering Randy Lewis said. “Spider-Man would have been able to stop that train.”
Artificially produced spider silk could eventually be used to make super-strong cables and highly durable bullet-proof vests. With thermal conductive properties closely resembling copper, it could also be used as an industrial heating material, with the bonus of a much lighter one-seventh mass density.
Thanks to the human body’s ability to accept spider silk, it could eventually be used for medical purposes like sealing wounds, making artificial tendons, and coating implants.