California-based startup Bolt Threads to lead the charge in sustainable textile production has developed a way to make spider silk and other insect fibers and spin them into yarn. In the process, the company has raised $50 million and secured a deal with lifestyle brand Patagonia.
Called Engineered Silk, Bolt Threads examined the genetic properties of spiders and in turn created a synthetic fiber made from sugar, water, salt and yeast which forms a liquid silk protein when combined. Then, through a wet spinning process, this liquid is spun into a fibre, similar to the way fibres like acrylic and rayon are made.
Spider silk itself is claimed to be five times stronger than steel when spun into a fibre, and is allegedly tougher than the man-made aramid fibre Kevlar.
Its new technology replicate the silk production process of spiders and silkworms, the new funding will help these next generation high performance fibres and fabrics to market. Since launching last year the company is now producing its Engineered Silk protein at large scale and plans to move into yarn manufacturing this summer
Bolt Threads has subsequently stressed that although specific details of the partnership with Patagonia are not yet ready to be enclosed, the two companies will be working on further developing more sustainable processes for silk fibre manufacturing.
At Bolt Threads, they are re-thinking textile manufacturing, producing high performance materials that are also not nearly as harmful to the environment as existing options. It's an incredibly important and challenging problem to solve and they are excited to collaborate with Patagonia and other partners to make cleaner textile production a reality.
Bolt Threads also believes its new materials minimize impacts on the environment as the main input in its fibre making process is sugar plants that are grown, harvested and replanted, whereas more than 60 percent of textiles are currently made of polyester and other petroleum derived fibres. The use of hydrocarbon polymers in manmade fabrics like nylon and polyester textiles has created a lingering toxic problem for the environment
According to Bolt Threads, by 2018 they can expect more mainstream textile products to incorporate engineered silk fibres â€“ and with this newly-announced partnership, perhaps Patagonia will be the company leading the way in terms of such commercialisation
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