Spider-Man's Tale: Synthetic Silk That Can Stop Train Soon to be a Reality

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By Parismita Goswami | March 7, 2014 11:32 PM EST

Scientists are on the process of developing highly strong synthetic spider silk, which is about five times stronger than steel. In spite of being a protein, spider silk has the ability to halt a speeding train resembling a scene from "Spiderman 2."

Reuters
Spider-Man's Tale: Synthetic Silk That Can Stop Train to Soon be a Reality

"Spider silk of fantastical, superhero strength is finally speeding towards commercial reality, at least a synthetic version of it is," researchers said.

This strong material could be used in products made for medical implants, automobile air bags to bulletproof vests, according to an article in the Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) magazine.

Scientists explain that the scene in "Spiderman 2" where Peter Parker stops an uncontrollable passenger train with several spider silk strings is not really unbelievable.

"We calculated roughly how thick the fibres were, how many of them he had attached to the walls, how much the locomotive and people weighed, and how fast it appeared to be going," TOI quoted Randy Lewis, professor of biological engineering at Utah State University.

"Spider-Man would have been able to stop that train," said Lewis.

The remarkable strength of the spider silk has been long studied by scientists and have been attempting in converting the super-strong protein into synthetic material, according to Alex Scott, a senior editor at C&EN.

Previously, scientists have been capable of inserting significant genes into bacterial DNA by converting the microorganism into complex protein. But same is not the case with spider silk.

Scientists have now extended their research from genetically engineered bacteria to transgenic silkworms, goats and even alfalfa in order to produce different types of synthetic spider and spider-silkworm silks.

So far, commercialization of the synthetic product has not reached a satisfactory level, though a company has reportedly being trying to introduce into the market a kind of spider silk for cosmetic use. The research on the synthetic spider silk is progressing and scientists are hoping to scale up the production shortly.

(Edited by Anu James)

To contact the editor, e-mail:

(Photo: Reuters / )
Spider-Man's Tale: Synthetic Silk That Can Stop Train to Soon be a Reality
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