ANN ARBOR — The future of body armor might be silk spun by silkworms that has the amazing strength of spiderwebs.
Ann Arbor-based Kraig Biocraft Laboratories Inc. (OTC: KBLB), the company that has bred genetically engineered silkworms with spider genes, resulting in super-strong silk, announced Monday it has shipped panels of its Dragon Silk material to the United States Army for ballistic testing.
The company says the panels will be evaluated for effectiveness in stopping bullets, in an effort to provide U.S. warfighters with a lighter and more comfortable alternative to today’s protective apparel.
Kraig officials say their method of developing “spider silk” is different from its competitors in that its genetically engineered silkworms can be used in the existing silk production industry, which churns out more than 150,000 metric tons of silk a year.
And, they say, unlike synthetic body armor materials, such as Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) polymers or aramids, spider silk is extremely flexible, making it more comfortable and providing higher mobility and movement for the wearer. Spider silk is also biocompatible, making it ideal for skin contact applications, and biodegradable, reducing the environmental burden of the current synthetic materials
“After years of research and investment, developing this ground breaking technology, we are very excited to now see it in the hands of the U.S. Army,” said Kraig COO Jon Rice. “For me, personally, and for the Company, the opportunity to help protect the brave men and women whom dedicate themselves to our protection is a great honor.”
In a bit of irony, the company has opened its first production center in Vietnam, aiming to expand its production of Dragon Silk and other recombinant spider silk products.
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