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Secrets in spider silk “could herald a revolution in manufacturing”

Manufacturing News

A multidisciplinary team has been awarded a grant to replicate spider silk, which has high strength and potential use in new products.

The international study has earned funding from the PLuS Alliance of UNSW Sydney, Arizona State University and King’s College London.

Lead researcher Dr Sean Blamires from University of NSW’s Evolution & Ecology Research Centre said spider silk was stronger than steel or kevlar. 

“Tapping into its secrets could herald a revolution in manufacturing,” he added, with several high-performance materials possible, from ultra-tough ropes and cables to safety uniforms to prosthetics.

“In this age of massive amounts of plastics pollution, the creation of spider silk materials using cutting edge genetic and spinning technologies would be of great interest to industry.

“Biotech is one of the fastest growing industries right now and this project will contribute significantly to that. There’s also the potential for new green manufacturing industries to arise in the future.

“Advancing the development of high performing products using pollution-free manufacturing is a great win for society.”

Blamires is founder of the Spider Silk Research Lab, which according to its website researches, “many aspects of spider silk (and insect) production and use, including its ecology, physiology, mechanics, and structural chemistry across contexts to ultimately develop technologies based on original biological research.”

The team for the PLuS Alliance-funded work will include Professor Christopher Marquis, Director of UNSW’s Recombinants Products Facility and Dr Aditya Rawal from UNSW’s Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre, and span the three PLuS universities.

For all its potentially useful properties, spider silk is currently not viable to farm, requiring a lot of space, offering poor yields, and coming with a very real possibility that the spiders will eat each other.

Picture: Pixabay

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