Futurist Materials: Spider Silk

Inspiration has been taken from nature and its designs for many hundreds of years. A great example of this is the use of ‘chevaux-de-frise’ during many conflicts, as far back as the Spanish War of Independence, as a form of defence.  These were a portable series of protruding stakes, placed along shore lines to stop invasions. The interesting thing about these defences is that they can be seen, in a basic form, on the backs of caterpillars and their cocoons. In this case protruding stakes are replaced with fine, yet sharp hairs, which can be deadly to any ‘invading’ insect or bird which tries to attack the seemingly harmless sleeping caterpillar.

spiderdressAnother example of human design taking inspiration from nature, specifically insects, is the use of spider silk. This is a natural fibre which is used in a similar way to that of the silk worm. As you can imagine, farming spiders is not an easy job so a synthetic version of the material has been engineered, this is said to be stronger than steel and fire retardant. 

 

Without being too scientific, synthetic spider silk is made from a mix of proteins very similar to those found in the spider itself. As mentioned above, it is said to be stronger than steel. This does not mean that one strand would maintain the weight of the Golden Gate Bridge, however it does mean that if you had the same weight of silk as steel, then spider silk would win in a competition of the ‘world’s strongest material’.  For this reason it has even been used by American military in the development of bullet proof vests. 

The pioneers in synthetic spider silk are a Japanese company called Spiber. In 2013 they unveiled a blue silk dress, described as ‘ultra strong and flexible, yet light weight’, as well as being water resistance and anti-bacterial. This dress was created, not to wear, but to demonstrate the endless possibilities of this material and it is the hope of Spiber, that this will become more commonly used in everyday life.

With this in mind I can see many opportunities to use this product within interior design. The use of this material within floor finishes, wall coverings and upholstery would make for a healthy and safe environment for adults and children alike. Due to the cost of the material and the fact that this is still being develop it is not something you are likely to see in Elle Decoration anytime soon. However I hope that one day we will see this readily available to use, to create interesting and elaborate spaces.

References

Angel Fire (Unknown) Chevaux-de-frise [Online image]. Available from:  http://www.angelfire.com/ab8/wicked/test.html [Accessed 14.07.14].

Gemma Correll (2013) I made it with my bum [Online image]. Available from: http://weknowmemes.com/2013/01/made-it-with-my-bum/ [Accessed 14.07.14]

Spiber (2013) Qmonos [Online image]. Available from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2331647/The-Spiderdress-Japanese-company-unveils-ultra-strong-clothing-synthetic-spider-silk.html [Accessed 14.07.14].

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