US fabric maker Polartec is building on its partnership with Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, the developer of spider silk-based fibres, to bring the first materials made from recombinant spider silk to the performance apparel market.

The two companies have been working together since 2016 to apply the performance characteristics of spider silk into yarns for military-grade textiles.

But Kraig now says it believes that "spider silk, with its superior mechanical characteristics, has the potential to surpass the current generation of high performance fibres."

Among the strongest fibres produced in nature, scalable and cost-effective production of spider silk represents a 'holy grail' of material science. Kraig Laboratories possesses the exclusive right to use patented spider silk gene sequences in silkworms, which, it says, is the first way to mass produce these fibres 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," says Kim Thompson, Kraig Laboratories founder and CEO. 

The fully renewable, biodegradable and biocompatible 'super fibres' are thin, lightweight, flexible, resilient, "extraordinarily strong," and display strength-to-weight ratios more comparable to aramid fibres than other current performance fibres.

In apparel applications, the possibilities of recombinant spider silks have the potential to realise "unprecedented" combinations of physical properties such as luxurious feel and breathable comfort with top durability, Kraig says.

"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," says Gary Smith, Polartec CEO. "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 committed to using 100% recycled and biodegradable materials across its entire product line.