New Tech Spins Silk Like a Spider

Process is a step towards manufacture of the super-strong material
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 29, 2008 10:39 AM CDT
New Tech Spins Silk Like a Spider
A Orb weaver spider sits in its web in Tyler, Texas, just after midnight on Wednesday, July 18, 2007.    (AP Photo/Dr. Scott M. Lieberman)

A German team has created a device that spins silk like a spider, producing material five times stronger than steel. The fiber produced is of poor quality, but the new process is a step toward the goal of cheap, artificial spider silk. "It adds a piece to the puzzle but it's a very big puzzle and there are many pieces missing," an Oxford professor tells the BBC.

The scientists genetically engineered bacteria to produce spider silk proteins, then fed the proteins into channels etched in glass, mixing them with a blend of salts. The silk was extruded out of a narrow channel as a long fiber. But experts say the use of genetic engineering may be too expensive to make the process cost-effective. (Read more spiders stories.)

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