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Overview. Five times stronger than steel, two times stronger and ten times more elastic than Kevlar, spider silk is a natural marvel that eluded exhaustive attempts by science to replicate until recent breakthroughs by the scientists of EntoGenetics.
Current Need. The U.S. Department of Defense, law enforcement, and private security agencies seek super ballistic fibers to meet the strenuous demands on ballistic vests and composite armor to be stronger, lighter, and more comfortable. These are not casual problems, but life-saving and critical needs.
Product. EntoGenetics produces "spider silk", differentiated from other high performance synthetics by higher toughness. This silk is produced through the genetic design and altering of silk worms. Synthetics are superior in strength, but with little elasticity they cannot absorb as much energy as spider silk. Spider silk can be combined with other high strength fibers to take advantage of their differences, such as greater compressive resistance or better composite bonding. This silk is an agricultural product, not using complex chemistry or extreme conditions in its production.
Market. Many product innovations depend on the availability of fabrics with high strength and toughness while retaining elasticity. These applications include performance clothing, ropes, parachutes, and medical textiles. EntoGenetics' first market in the field of ballistic body armor , the most sought after adaptation of spider silk performance attributes, and a field that has sponsored a wide array of past programs to replicate spider silk as an alternative to Kevlar.
It is estimated that the quantity of spider silk fiber necessary to fill U.S. military needs is approximately 1,500,000kg yearly (approx. 375,000 vests) and 800,000kg (approx. 200,000 vests) for law enforcement agencies. The US market for protective clothing and body armor was roughly $2.3 billion in 2005 and is expected to grow to more than $3.35 billion by 2010 . The growth rate of the global ballistic protective clothing is accelerating from 2-3% per annum before 2003 to 5-6% since 2003.