US Army Is Testing Body Armor Made From Genetically Engineered Spider Silk

Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, leading developer of spider silk based fibers, has received a contract valued at up to $1.0 million for the development of high performance fibers for protective apparel applications. the Company will deliver ballistic shoot packs constructed from its proprietary Dragon Silk™ material for performance testing. These shoot packs will be tested and evaluated for critical Soldier protective applications including ballistic impact. Kraig will work direct with the Army to develop the next generation of super fibers for protective applications.

“Dragon Silk scores very highly in tensile strength and elasticity, which makes it one of the toughest fibers known to man and the ideal material for many applications,” stated Jon Rice, COO. “Providing material for this ballistic shoot pack initiative is an important next step for Kraig and spider silk. This contract reinforces the many significant potential applications for recombinant spider silk. Today is a great day for spider silk.”

Dragon Silk’s primary advantage over traditional Kevlar is its flexibility. Kevlar is slightly more durable than Dragon Silk, with a strength of 3 gigapascals (GPa) compared to Dragon Silk’s strength of 2 GPa. However, Kevlar only has an elasticity of 3 percent, meaning it’s almost completely inflexible. Dragon Silk has an elasticity of 30 to 40 percent, which offsets the slightly reduced strength.

Monster Silk™ is the world’s first economically viable recombinant spider silk for textile use: a thin, lightweight, flexible and high strength fiber. Kraig is ramping up commercial scale production of Monster Silk™, the cleanest commercial alternative to the high strength technical textiles. Kraig believe that this product will make significant inroads into both technical textile and mundane silk and apparel markets. The traditional silk market is estimated at approximately $3 to $5 billion (US) per year at the raw fiber level. Given its superior physical properties, Monster Silk™ is well positioned to penetrate that market, as well as the larger technical textile market which is estimated at approximately $130 billion (US).

In 2015, Kraig announced a breakthrough: our Dragon Silk™ line of transgenic silkworms. It and its progeny have proven not only to be stronger and more elastic than commercial grade silkworm silk, but stronger and more elastic than certain spider dragline silks.

In 2016, Kraig produced four new distinct transgenic lines, which use the most complex genetic designs in the company’s history. On top of the new lines, the lab also produced a new genetic insertion design for more effective gene splicing. This new design incorporated the properties of our Dragon Silk™ and Monster Silk™ into a single construction. This experiment to merge Monster Silk’s elasticity focus with the strength focus of Dragon Silk into a single package was the logical next step for the technology.

SOURCES- Kraig Labs, Popular Mechanics