Stronger than steel and more flexible than nylon, spider silk is said to be the toughest material on earth. For the past 11 years a Japanese company has been attempting to harness that strength to create a new type of material with unprecedented versatility. They’ve now unveiled their working prototype: the Moon Parka.
The Moon Parka is the result of 11 years of technological innovation and investment, 10 design iterations and 656 gene synthesis designs. The main barrier, says Spiber, was synthetically producing spider silk that was economically feasible. To create their artificial spider silk fiber called Qmonos (from the Japanese word kumonosu meaning ‘spider web’) the company used a fermentation process that involved microorganisms manufacturing recombinant proteins. This was not cheap. But Spiber has made remarkable progress and the cost is now 1/53,000 of what it was in 2008.
Spiber first gave the public a peek at their technology in 2013 when they created a cocktail dress made from Qmonos. But now they’re getting serious and have teamed up with North Face to produce the Moon Parka. It was named after the most remote and extreme environment upon which mankind has ever set foot, likening their breakthrough to a “moonshot” that was always considered an impossible goal.
And apparel is only the company’s initial target. They envision their material to have applications in the automotive and medical device industries as well.
The Moon Parka won’t be commercially available until 2016 but according to the press release it’s currently touring North Face stores across Japan through January 10, 2016.