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Synthetic Spider Silk: Can the Biological Super Material Live up to its Hype?

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Do Robots Dream of Synthetic Spiders? 

Katherine Bourzac writes: We were promised carbon-nanotube space elevators, nanorobots that would mend us from the inside out, bulletproof vests made from spider silk, and so much more. What we will get, at least when it comes to arachnid materials, is a $314.15, limited edition spider-silk necktie.

Bolt Threads will unveil the tie, which the company calls the first commercially available spider-silk product, Friday at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. David Breslauer, chief scientific officer at Bolt, says the production of the ties shows that spider silk fibers and textiles can be produced at large scale.

Synthetic Spider Silk for Sale in a $314 Necktie.

Synthetic Spider Silk for Sale in a $314 Necktie.

But don’t expect to see spider-silk ties in Bloomingdale’s anytime soon. Starting on Saturday, just 50 ties will be available on the company’s website. Breslauer says the tie is a showpiece and that Bolt will release a more widely available product soon, though he declined to provide any details.

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Spider silk’s properties have excited biomaterials researchers and the public for some time. The structure of spider-silk proteins, which mixes hard, crystalline regions with more elastic ones, gives the material some superlative properties. When single strands of spider silk are tested in the lab, the best can hold their own against steel and Kevlar, the material used to make bulletproof vests. Silks are versatile, and different spider species have their own distinct variations on the silk formula. … (read more)

MIT Technology Review

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