HomeBody Armor MaterialsSpider Silk is Now Being Used to Make Body Armor

Spider Silk is Now Being Used to Make Body Armor

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Body armor made from spider silk is in serious development and it is not as farfetched as it may seem. A decade from now, the military may be ordering this incredibly lightweight body armor for the troops. The latest type of armor being considered by the U.S. Army is not at all what you would expect. It’s not some tough new chemical composition or porcelain to replace Aramid. It’s actually spider silk.

Using spider stuff to make clothing isn’t totally new, but it’s an entirely different matter when you consider mass-producing it. The vest seen in the photo above was made of silk form Madagascar’s Golden Orb Spider. The designers spent eight years using a million spiders just to make this one vest. However, the new body armor being designed now is not going to require anything this complicated.

Spider silk is made up of a protein-rich liquid, which when dried forms a solid filament that can be shaped to meet various needs. For example, the spider can create an egg sac or weave a web for capturing food. Spider silk is highly flexible, extremely stretchable, surpasses steel in strength, and most importantly, can be formed into a mesh that would stop a bullet. The problem is that until recently, nobody had found a way to make enough spider silk to manufacture and test possible options to find out whether it really can stop bullets.

Utah State University researchers have found a way to alter the DNA of silkworms so that spider proteins could be incorporated into the silk threads produced by the silkworms. This new silk has double the strength and far more elasticity than normal silkworm silk and can also be mass-produced. The resulting material successfully stopped a slow-moving .22-caliber bullet using just four layers. Thirty-three layers of Aramid are needed in today’s standard bullet proof vetsts.

Kraig Biocraft Labs announced in 2018 that it was manufacturing large quantities of panels like the ones seen above for the U.S. Army. They are calling this new fabric “Dragon Silk.” This too was developed without using millions of spiders, who would have probably devoured one another rather than live in peace to spin threads. Kraig Biocraft used patented genetic proteins to create silkworms that were similar to the ones the researchers at Utah State created. Rather than settling for standard body armor, Kraig Biocraft may end up being the first to design comfortable lightweight and flexible body armor that can truly protect the groin area.

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Jon Rice, Kraig Biocraft COO said, “We are so excited and proud to see the amazing break-through technology that we spent years developing, going to the U.S. Army. Speaking for myself and for the Company, being given an opportunity to protect the men and women who are brave enough to put their lives on the line for our protection, is an enormous honor.”

Update BodyArmorNews.com October 30 2023
In a groundbreaking development, Chinese scientists have achieved a significant milestone by engineering spider silks that are tougher than traditional bulletproof vests. By creating complete, full-length spider silk fibers using genetically-engineered silkworms, they have managed to exhibit a staggering six-fold increase in toughness when compared to conventional body armor materials. This remarkable achievement opens up new horizons in material science and has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about protective gear.

The research, conducted by a team of scientists from Donghua University, is rooted in a deep understanding of materials like nylon and Kevlar, which are commonly used in the production of ballistic vests. Drawing inspiration from these materials, the researchers formulated a novel theory about the inherent toughness and strength of fibers. Through their work, they unveiled the fundamental structure of silk fibers, shedding light on the secrets of nature’s strongest threads.

To bring their theory to life, the scientists employed advanced gene editing techniques, leading to the synthesis of complete polyamide spider silk fibers derived from transgenic silkworms. The results were nothing short of remarkable, as these spider silk fibers demonstrated not only high tensile strength but also an exceptional level of toughness. This pioneering research, recently published in the journal Matter, marks a significant step forward in the quest for more resilient and adaptable materials for various applications, from protective gear to medical advancements.

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  1. Hello Scott,

    Is there supposed to be a picture of a bulletproof vest and spider silk panels in this article? Also, I believe you meant to say “from” not “form”. Otherwise good piece. So is the Army actually creating bullet proof prototypes at this time from Kraig’s spider silk? Thank you!

    “The vest seen in the photo above was made of silk form Madagascar’s Golden Orb Spider.”

    “Kraig Biocraft Labs announced in 2018 that it was manufacturing large quantities of panels like the ones seen above for the U.S. Army.”

    “Body armor made from spider silk is in serious development and it is not as farfetched as it may seem.”

  2. Still puzzled; “Great strength and amazing flexability”. This brings up the primary consideration for bullets, that is stopping power. I fail to see the value of a protective vest made of this material. While its great strength will not let the bullet pass through it, its great flexability will then stretch with the force of the bullets impact and form the material into a dull knife like tool which will then penatrate the body. The good thing is you would be able to pull on the vest and extract the bullet leaving a clean wound.
    Then a man is wearing conventional armor and is hit with a bullet. It does not penetrate but the force of the projectile commonly knocks the victim down often bruising him as well. However the bullet is stopped.

    • When something is flexible, it has the ability to bend or deform under external forces, which allows it to disperse force from a small point of impact more effectively. This phenomenon is commonly observed in various materials and structures, and it’s essential for improving safety and reducing damage in many applications.

      Here’s how something flexible disperses force from a small point of impact:

      • Load Distribution: When a force is applied to a small point on a flexible material or structure, it distributes that force over a larger area. Instead of concentrating the impact on one spot, the flexible material spreads the load, which helps to reduce the stress at any single point. This is similar to how weight is distributed over a larger area when you walk on snow with snowshoes, preventing you from sinking.

      • Energy Absorption: Flexible materials have the ability to absorb and dissipate energy when subjected to an impact. When a force is applied to the material, it deforms and stores some of the energy in the form of strain. As a result, the impact force is absorbed and spread out over a greater surface area, reducing the intensity of the force at any specific point.

      • Resilience: Flexibility often goes hand in hand with resilience, meaning that after deformation, the material can return to its original shape. This property allows the flexible material to “bounce back” to some extent after an impact, further reducing the lasting effects of the force.

      • Crack Deflection: In some cases, flexible materials can guide the propagation of cracks or fractures away from the point of impact. This behavior helps prevent catastrophic failure and extends the material’s ability to withstand repeated impacts.

      • Layered Structures: Many flexible materials are designed with multiple layers or specialized structures that work together to distribute and dissipate force. For example, in some protective gear like helmets or body armor, a combination of rigid and flexible layers is used to manage the impact energy effectively.

      It’s important to note that while flexibility can disperse force and improve impact resistance, there are limits to what a flexible material can withstand. Extremely high forces or impacts beyond the material’s capabilities can still cause damage or failure. Engineers and designers carefully consider the specific application and required level of protection when selecting materials and structures to ensure optimal performance.


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