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U.S. Military Investing in Body Armor Made out of Spider Webs

♫ Spider-Military. Spider-Military. ♫


The web pattern Spider-Man’s suit may not make him bulletproof like some of his buddies’ outfits/bodies, but the United States military is interested in body armor made out of real spider webs—spider silk, that is—that could come pretty close. Sure, we already have less gross body armor that is bulletproof, but spider silk has some pretty neat advantages, which unfortunately do not include sticking to walls.

Those advantages, namely increased flexibility and the ability to cover more of the body in armored material as a result, are why the Army has awarded a $100,000 contract to Kraig Biocraft, a company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They’ve spliced spider genes into silkworms in order to more effectively harvest spider silk, which has long been known to science as a pretty incredible material.

Why haven’t we seen this/people swinging to work on their own webshooters before, then? Spider silk is also notoriously difficult to farm, because spiders are a bit meaner—especially to each other—than silkworms. However, Kraig Biocraft’s gene splicing has allowed them to produce a material fairly similar to pure spider silk, which they refer to as Dragon Silk. It’s not quite as strong as kevlar, but it’s better than nothing in areas of the body or situations where kevlar’s flexibility and bulkiness limitations just won’t do.

The minimal contract is just to get things started, with the bio company providing different configurations of their fibers for testing against traditional materials to see if the idea holds up under pressure—generated by a bunch of bullets, probably. If things go well in the early testing, the contract could be expanded to $1 million to give us our very own army of nearly bulletproof Spider-Men.

(via Gizmodo, image via Marvel Entertainment)

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Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct Geekosystem (RIP), and then at The Mary Sue starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at Smash Bros.