Artificial Spider Fiber Ready for Mass Production

May 30, 2013
Motohiko Hamada, Nikkei Automotive Technology

Spiber Inc developed elemental technologies for making microorganisms produce the fiber of spider silk.

The company calls the bio-based material made with the technologies "Qmonos," of which it has already applied for trademark registration. By processing it, the Qmonos can be supplied in a variety of forms such as "Qmonos Fiber," "Qmonos Film," "Qmonos Gel," "Qmonos Powder" and "Qmonos Nano-fiber."

For volume production, Spiber will establish a fiber business in collaboration with Kojima Industries Corp, an auto parts manufacturer. They will form a joint venture in the near future and build a test plant that can produce 100kg of the Qmonos Fiber or more per month within 2013. At the plant, Spiber will develop volume production technologies for the Qmonos Fiber and consider its applications.

Spiber aims to complete the construction of a pilot plant and start its operations in 2015. The pilot plant is expected to produce 10t of the Qmonos Fiber per year in the first year.

Spider silk is very strong and is not made from oil. Therefore, there have been worldwide efforts to commercialize spider silk. However, existing technologies have problems in terms of production cost and safety, making volume production difficult.

Production cost
Unlike silkworms, spiders are difficult to be domesticated. And it is impossible to make spiders produce spider silk. So, researchers worldwide are focused on making creatures other than spiders produce "fibroin," a protein that is the main component of spider silk, and spinning it into fiber like chemical fiber.

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