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Munich firm develops synthetic spider silk

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Munich firm develops synthetic spider silk
Photo: DPA
08:14 CEST+02:00
Munich start-up company Amsilk claims it is the first to mass-produce synthetic spider silk, a challenge that has defeated several major corporations.

Chemist and company partner Thomas Scheibel is behind the invention, which can potentially be used in dermatological creams, as a coating for medical implants, as well as an element in high-performance textiles and automobile parts.

“Spider's silk is more flexible than rubber and more durable than steel,” Scheibel said.

The manufacturing procedure, which is protected by 70 separate patents, involves using harmless E. Coli bacteria and genes from real spider's silk proteins.

The biggest challenge for Amsilk is now scaling up the production of the silk from the laboratory to the industrial level – mainly because of the expense involved.

“We'll never be able to reach the price of nylon,” predicted Scheibel. “But some processes will have to be completely re-invented, otherwise one kilo of the silk will cost around €100,000.”

The Fraunhofer technology research institute is cooperating with Amsilk on developing the manufacturing process.

“It will all stand and fall on the final price,” said Hans-Peter Fink, director of polymer research at the institute.

Amsilk chairman Axel Leimer is confident, though. “We'll see the first products next year,” he said.

But that will also be high time – the €10 million that various private investors have put into the project is only expected to last until 2013.

DPA/The Local/bk

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