Comprehensive coverage

The spider, the goat and the strongest fiber in the world

A thread that could stop a plane - the source of the fiber's strength is a single gene of a spider


A spider and two mortals, Webster and Peter, are about to combine their natural resources to produce a substance so powerful that the Pentagon wants to use it in anti-missile defense systems. The material, which is 10 times stronger than steel but has the flexibility required to perform delicate sutures in surgeries, is produced as follows: spider genes are implanted in the bodies of goats. As a result, protein fibers are formed in the goat's milk. The fibers can be removed from the milk and woven into the fibers of the new material, known as Biosteel. Production of the material will begin soon.

Peter, who lives on a farm east of Montreal, and Webster, who happily chews hay on a farm in Quebec, carry a single spider gene in their genetic makeup, which consists of about 70 genes. They reached sexual maturity this spring, and have already begun the work of giving birth to the herd that produces the webs. The Canadian biotechnology company "Nexia" hopes that after enough offspring are produced, it will be able to produce light and bulletproof protective vests. This is why the project is of great interest to the United States Army and the Canadian Army. "The milk product of one goat for a month will be enough for the production of one vest," says Geoffrey Turner, director of Nexia.

Fiber has potential in two areas: ballistic defense, aerospace, and medical devices such as sutures and artificial tendons. "A rope of this material with a thickness of 2.5 cm will be able to stop a fighter plane landing on an aircraft carrier", says Randy Lewis from the University of Wyoming, one of the pioneers of the attempt to artificially produce spider webs.

{Appeared in Haaretz newspaper, 23/5/2000}

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.