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Polartec and Kraig Biocraft Bringing Spider Silk to Performance Apparel

Polartec, a provider of innovative and sustainable textile solutions, and Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, a biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of spider silk, are collaborating to bring the first fabrics made from the material to the market.

Polartec and Kraig are applying the performance characteristics of spider silk into yarns for military-grade textiles, in joint development since 2016. Spider silk was first developed for specialized military applications, and the companies feel the materials made from recombinant spider silk will provide the global market for high performance textiles and apparel with new materials developed through the agreement.

Known for its strength and cost-effective production, spider silk is produced by Kraig under exclusive rights to use patented spider silk gene sequences in silkworms, which allows for mass production of the fibers cost-effectively and responsibly.

“Teaming with an industry leader such as Polartec is a real endorsement of our proprietary approach to unlocking the potential of commercially produced spider silk,” Kim Thompson, Kraig Laboratories founder and CEO, said. “Kraig believes that spider silk, with its superior mechanical characteristics, has the potential to surpass the current generation of high performance fibers.”

A Polartec spokesman told Sourcing Journal that a timeline for introduction hasn’t been set, but that Polartec has been running trials using the fiber. The renewable, biodegradable and biocompatible fibers are thin, lightweight, flexible and resilient, and display strength-to-weight ratios more comparable to aramid fibers than other current performance fibers, the companies said. In apparel applications, the potential is for fibers that combine luxurious feel and breathable comfort with durability.

“This project combines two of our most important innovation missions: providing best-in-class textiles to our nation’s military personnel and our investment in a fully biodegradable product line,” Polartec CEO Gary Smith said. “Our partnership with Kraig has the potential to be as revolutionary as when we created the first performance fabrics made from post-consumer recycled plastics in 1993.”

Polartec recently announced its Polartec Eco-Engineering commitment to using 100 percent biodegradable and recycled materials across its entire product line through a partnership with Unifi Inc. and CiCLO. This new standard for sustainable textiles will include the creation of fully recycled and biodegradable fleece, other knits, insulation fills and breathable waterproof fabrics.