US Army seeks to make body armor from genetically-engineered spider silk

A spider web made from spider silk.

Spider-Man may be going tactical- the US Army just awarded a $100,000 contract to a company to determine if genetically-engineered spider silk could be used to make sleeker body armor for the troops.

According to Gizmodocontract winner Kraig Biocraft will be testing the futuristic material to see how durable it is.

“We are going to provide them a series of different thread counts, thicknesses, construction techniques that they will test against standard material performance specifications,” said Jon Rice, the company’s chief operating officer.

Referred to by Kraig Bio as being made of “dragon silk”, the suits would be stronger than Kevlar while being able to protect more than just the wearer’s torso- and with much less bulk. Science has long regarded spider silk -which is five times stronger than steel of the same diameter- as a sort of “miracle” material, as it can retain strength while also being able to stretch up to 40% without breaking.

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to produce the material. While silkworms farming is thousands of years old, nobody has really tackled spider farming. In addition, spiders also like to eat each other and are difficult to work with.

To alleviate this issue, Kraig Bio has inserted spider DNA into silkworms to spin a spider-like material. If the project goes well, the contract could be extended up to $1 million- and US troops can be looking at much cooler uniforms.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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