New 'Moon Parka' Made From Artificial Spider Silk
Spider silk is known for its qualities of being both lightweight and exceptionally strong. So far, it's been used for creating things like bulletproof vests and artificial muscles. Now, a Japanese startup known as Spiber and the company behind The North Face products (TNF), Goldwin, have teamed up to create a prototype jacket they're calling the Moon Parka. It's cold-weather gear whose outer shell is made entirely from synthetic spider silk called QMONOS, courtesy of Spiber. The new parka is based on TNF's Antarctica Parka, and will be the world’s first successful use of synthetic spider silk materials on an actual manufacturing line.
Spider Silk in Manufacturing
If you're wondering if the Moon Parka was invented for astronauts, the answer is no. The prototype jacket got its name from the shiny appearance of its QMONOS shell due to its soft, moon-like glow. The color also resembles the delicate shade of silk produced by the golden orb weaving spider. While there have been instances of garments being woven from real spider silk, the task of keeping spiders alive in captivity has proven generally unsuitable to the manufacturing industry owing to the fact spiders tend to kill each other in artificial environments. It's an arachnid eat arachnid world out there, folks.
Molecular Level Design
The synthetic spider silk, aka QMONOS, is made into thread from proteins created through a microbial fermentation process. During Spiber’s Vimeo, viewers are told, ”Our team has extensively studied the diverse genetic designs found in nature. We’ve developed advanced methods to create new, tailor-made protein materials designed at the molecular level.” Growing proteins in a lab would be an innovative solution to using materials such as nylon and polyester, which are petroleum based. The development process for the alternative thread would ultimately reduce the product's carbon footprint, which is a big part of the joint venture's intended purpose.
Synthetic Silk Applications
Besides reducing the impact manufacturing of the product could have on the environment, Spiber says they’ve managed to improve both productivity and significantly reduce the cost of the artificial spider silk since research began on the project back in 2008. In addition to outerwear gear like the Moon Parka, the company wants to investigate applications for the unique fiber in such industries as automotive and possibly medical devices. The strength and durability of the material would make it a no-brainer for the automotive industry. One could easily envision the military and law enforcement agencies wanting to explore its potential uses, too.
Moon Parka Release Date
The projected release date for the new Moon Parka is slated for sometime in 2016. It will first launch in Japan through The North Face before making its way to foreign markets. Currently, the parka is touring Japan as a special exhibition in TNF retail shops. While TNF hasn’t set a price in connection to the jacket yet, most of their rugged outdoor and athletic apparel does not come cheap. If it's anywhere near the price of their men’s Himalayan Parka made from ripstop nylon filled with goose down, consumers could be looking at a price tag of 650 U.S. dollars. Ouch! Our recommendation, if this seems like a must-have item to you, is to start saving now.