Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Moon Parka: Outerwear Made from Synthetic Spider Silk (spoon-tamago.com)
46 points by ph0rque on Oct 28, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

Another company, Bolt Threads [1] just raised significant money [2] to produce spider silk as well. Started by a few molecular biologists, they too took it from a protein sequence, into yeast, purified the protein in bulk, spun it into thread, then wove it into a fabric. Which means, theoretically they can tweak the protein sequence to produce an entirely new fabric in a matter of a few weeks. Once you get a woven protein scaffold into a fabric, systematically modifying the scaffold further is relatively easy for a protein compared with the sugars and polymers we use currently.

It's hard to see unless you look closely, but this is the beginning of biological nanotechnology. These are some of the very first deliberately designed biological molecules to make it into a non-pharmaceutical market. Technologically, the silks in these fabrics are made of designed components an order of magnitude smaller than Intel's best transistors. And (under biological conditions) are significantly more functionally versatile.

[1] https://boltthreads.com/ [2] http://techcrunch.com/2015/06/04/spiderpants/

I can't find any information on the protein they're using - do you know which it is?

From a proteonomics perspective it seems interesting, but spider silk is several different proteins polymerized into amorphous semi-elastic regions, so I'm skeptical about their 'spinning' process.

Processes using yeast to produce simple proteins (like hypoallergenic insulin) have been around since the 1980s, so I'm curious about how (or if) they solved the protein folding problem and stats on how their silk compares to natural silk.

Wonderful comment, however I disagree with the "hard to see" aspect... I'm so excited about this tech that when reading the article I was daydreaming of dropping everything and just showing up on the doorstep of a company like spiber and saying "I am not leaving until you give me a job"

This is awesome tech and the obvious future. So I don't think it is hard to see at all...

If the fabric is made of proteins, can you eat it?

Whether or not it's constructed from protein is irrelevant to whether or not it can be eaten. There are many proteins that can be eaten but are not (or poorly) digestible or convey no meaningful nutritious benefit. And for that matter, one can "eat" anything.

The germane question here is "does this have nutritional value"?; the answer is almost certainly "no".

Probably not. Your hair and nails are made of protein and they're not very digestible.

I saw a talk a few years ago by a German company that was essentially trying to do the same thing. I forgot the name of the company, but I remembered they said that expressing the proteins is the easy part. Spinning the proteins into a thread was the tough part. Apparently spiders have special excretion structures/organs that can anneal the proteins to the right conformation extremely quickly as they are ejected. This is why a spider can basically just jump off of anything and shoot out his "bungee cord" while falling which is incredibly fast if you think about it. When the researchers tried to replicate this by simply shooting the concentrated protein solution through a tiny capillary they weren't able to achieve the same molecular structure for their thread nor at the same speed. They noted that their thread was strong, but nevertheless significantly weaker than a spider's. I'm very interested to know if these other companies managed to overcome these challenges and how exactly.

Sigh, I wish web sites had more information, this from the manufacturer https://www.spiber.jp/en/endeavor?section=3

I'm curious to know what the tensile strength and Young's modulus is for the thread. I get annoyed that the "stronger than steel" moniker when it discusses one aspect of strength and generally related to weight but not volume. Its much less impressive to have a .050 fiber that is "stronger than steel" when the equivalent steel fiber would be .0005.

Interesting questions like "How does it compare to Kevlar(tm)?" are we going to see sails made out of it? What is the durability in the presence of ultraviolet light (aka sunlight)? Is this just a Velben[1] fiber, suitable only for showing off just how much you can spend on a jacket?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorstein_Veblen

Interesting, confused as to why weather wear is where it ended up? It doesn't seem to talk much about insulation or any of the keep warm themes just general strength.

The purpose of the outer shell of a Parka is to lightly and durably contain the insulating material and offer some wind resistance.

I'm not sure on the weight of the resulting fabric, but if its in the realm of existing nylon shells and offers greater durability, its a massive win.

ah - so it's possible that the reasoning behind this is the low weight mixed with its huge strength/durability gains?

In theory - although its just conjecture. There are so spec's out there on the Jacket Weight or its windbreaking properties.

If its as heavy as Canvas, then its just novel.

Wow, just recently I was looking up all about spider silk, thinking we weren't utilizing it to its full potential - whether medical, military or even fashion. Very excited about this, though it will probably be extremely expensive.

All new breakthroughs start expensive, though. Not until economies of scale come in does the price get driven down.

Don't forget technological advancements, the other price driver. They're 11 years into the research, there could still be huge changes coming in how they can produce it.

I remember seeing a video as a kid of a spider silk blanket flattening a bullet shot at it. Is this parka as puncture resistant?

Doubtful. It is likely the thinnest practical layer over insulating material.

Spider silk is extremely vulnerable to flame though... I'm not sure if that is mostly related to just how thin it is... But I would like to see a comparison between this fabric and nylon when near open flame. Nylon will melt, what will this do?

Silkworm silk fabric burns, but only after more exposure to heat compared to what it takes to melt nylon.

How much will it cost? I didn't see a price, but I know it will be high...

Enough to guarantee that it will be used almost exclusively to shield people from the elements on the walk to and from the tech bus / subway into lower Manhattan.

Hey! Some of us do go on hikes now and then :) .

Google translate is not doing a super job with the website [0], but from what I can gather the price of the material is now down to about $100/kg. Not sure how that translates to a parka but I'm sure it won't be cheap.

[0] https://www.spiber.jp/endeavor?section=3

Has anyone found any objective information about the actual properties of Qmonos?

I love it when promises of sci-fi from my youth become real.

I'm assuming it's not sticky, otherwise you'd be covered in flies as you walked around.

Spiders spin a number of different kinds of silk, one is sticky and another is not. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider_web

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact