Artificial Spider Silk

What's made by insects and is stronger than steel? Spider silk, that's what, and Dr. Anna Rising and Jan Johansson, researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, are trying to make it artificially.

Spider silk is stronger than steel. Scientists in Sweden have come up with a more efficient way to produce artificial spider silk in labs. It might soon be used in hospitals...

RISING: Well, spider silk is made up of proteins, and these proteins are then assembled into a fiber, and it is the binding between the proteins that makes the silk so tough.

SIMON: Now, by making artificial spider silk, are you are you putting hard-working spiders out of business?

RISING: (Laughter) No, I don't think so anyway because it's really, really laborious to reel the silk from spiders. They are territorial, and they are cannibalistic, so you can't really house them. So what you have to do is to produce the silk artificially using bacteria to produce the proteins for you.

Science fiction fans recall a variety of different kinds of spider silk used for its strength in applications in space and on Earth; for example, consider the synthetic spider silk from Misfit, a classic 1939 story by Robert Heinlein.

Via NPR.

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