"Monster Silk" Fire-Resistant Underwear Of The Future Is Here — Are You Ready?
You know when you're just casually walking down the street and suddenly your underwear is on fire (no, literally, on fire)? Well, you needn't worry anymore: Fire-resistant underwear made of (fake) spider silk is possibly on the cards, although in all seriousness, it's probably soldiers who'll get to use it. One company in Michigan has come one step closer to engineering spider silk–based fiber that is strong, flexible — and won't burn.
Two days ago, Kraig Biocraft Laboratories announced that it had managed to double its production of Monster Silk — a type of genetically engineered fibrous material —becoming twice its original size, a "major milestone in the Company's spider silk commercialization process." What this means for us, in the non-fake-spider-silk-making world? A cool new material that could be made into buyable underwear as soon as next year, CBS reports.
“Spider silk in nature has truly unique properties. If you think about a spider’s web, it’s designed by nature to intercept an airborne missile: a fly or another flying insect,” Kraig Biocraft Laboratories CEO Kim Thompson told Live Science. "If you do the mathematical calculations, the weight of the fly, its speed, and the size of the individual fiber you capture it in, the strength-to-weight ratio is off the scale."
The way Kraig Labs make the faux spider silk is like something out of sci-fi film just waiting to go wrong. They take the DNA sequence from a spider, and then insert this into a silkworm's chromosomes. This basically makes the silkworm produce a fiber that's identical to the spider's silk. Even cooler? To play with the fiber's properties, like its strength and flexibility, they just casually change the DNA sequence. “Our production system is the only commercially viable technology for producing spider silk,” Thompson told Wired.
And the fake silk really does have some pretty incredible properties. It's stronger, lighter, and more durable than the fiber used in almost all other fabrics; it's also resistant to small particles and doesn't melt onto skin — a huge bonus, Wired points out, especially for those in the army. (Yah, all right, potentially not so useful for those of us outside of war zones — but I could do with some durable knickers, regardless).
If spider-silk soldier clothes don't work out, though, there's always the possibility of fish-scale armor. It's currently being developed at MIT (of course), using 3-D printing. Not so good for the undies, though.
Image: Getty Images