Spiber Inc. is a Japanese biotechnology company developing synthetic spider silk without the use of animals or petroleum resources. The company is currently constructing the world’s largest structural protein fermentation facility in Thailand. With this expansion, Spiber aims to manufacture sustainable protein-based materials at a competitive cost. Commercial production of synthetic spider silk is expected to start in 2021, with a production capacity of several hundred tons per year.
Alternative silk, alternative wool
Brewed Protein™ is the company’s sustainable material inspired by spider silk and produced via precision fermentation. To meet the needs of a variety of applications, Brewed Protein can be processed into fibers with a silky sheen as well as spun into yarns with cashmere- or wool-like properties. The company anticipates that Brewed Protein can take the place of silk from silkworms as well as silk and wool alternatives made with petroleum-based plastics in the fashion, automotive, and medical industries, among others.
Production process: Precision Fermentation
Brewed Protein™ is produced using Spiber’s proprietary precision fermentation process. First, the code for the desired protein is inserted into microorganisms (usually yeast). Using the necessary sugars and minerals, these microorganisms grow the desired protein in a bioreactor. After fermentation is complete, the protein is purified and dried into a pellet or powder. Brewed Protein can then be processed into a variety of materials.
Brewed Protein materials are likely more sustainable than silk and wool in a variety of measures, as no animals or petroleum products are used in their production. The company indicates that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced considerably compared to animal and petroleum-based fibers, and it is likely that water use is also much lower.
Spiber’s initial target industries are apparel and automotive.
The North Face Spiber Moon Parka was produced on standard mass-manufacturing equipment with Spiber’s Brewed Protein as the outer layer.
Spiber’s collaboration with YUIMA NAKAZATO was exhibited in the Fall/Winter 2019/20 couture collection at Paris Fashion Week.
Japanese fashion brand sacai and Spiber collaborated to produce a limited edition T-shirt.
Images from Spiber.