Airbus has signed a partnership with German biotech AMSilk for the development of a new biomaterial to be used in the construction of future high-performance planes.
Spider silk is known for having outstanding strength and flexibility. AMSilk uses engineered bacteria to produce spider silk protein, which is then used to create materials with a wide range of applications. Among them is a biodegradable running shoe that the company developed for Adidas.
AMSilk will be working with Airbus in the development of a composite material based on its spider silk fibers that is stronger, lighter and more flexible than the materials currently used to build planes. The team expects to have a prototype material ready in 2019.
“In recent years, the aerospace industry has shifted from metal or steel fuselage and wings to carbon fiber composite materials, mainly to decrease the weight of planes and as a consequence save fuel,” an AMSilk spokesperson told me.
“The new composite material AMSilk and Airbus are developing could be used to develop complex and more flexible structures on the one hand, and to reduce repair costs and plane downtime on the other hand.”
An additional advantage of the new material will be that, as the spider silk fibers are produced using a biotechnological process, their production is more sustainable than that of any other alternatives currently available.
It’s exciting to see yet another industry that could be positively impacted by biomaterials. Textiles, plastics and cosmetics are already starting to be produced using biological processes, and some believe that, in the not so distant future, biotechnology could be as ubiquitous as digital technologies are today.
Images via Shutterstock; AMSilk