Technical Application’s Background

Task One

History About the NCT Technical Application

             During ancient times, in order to protect themselves from firearms, people began to look towards using animal skins. However, the skins were completely ineffective. The bullets went right through the skins. Later, the Italians and Romans created vests with an inner and outer layer embedded with metal in order to deflect bullets, which was somewhat effective. Ultimately, the Japanese looked into creating silk armor; however, silk was a very expensive item on the market at the time. They eventually abandoned this concept. The US military did not look into creating soft body armor until 1901. This soft body armor was a combination of silk and cloth, used to protect soldiers from “low-velocity” ammunition, not handgun ammunition. As a result, the U.S. abandoned this idea due to the price of silk and the ineffectiveness of silk. However, during World War II in the 1960s, the U.S. developed a piece of armor known as the Flak jacket. The Flak Jacket was fabricated of nylon fibers and protected soldiers from handgun ammunition but was highly ineffective against rifles and pistols. Within the same decade, a man by the name of Dupont Kevlar invented fabric to improve tire belts. This material led to the development of the modern bulletproof vest: its unique design, initially for tire belts, stops bullets completely, but it proves to be very bulky, limiting, cumbersome.

Composite History

  • 1940s Glass Fiber reinforced polymers – scientists realized that combining items in a mold with a lightweight material actually strengthened it
  • Carbon and graphene fibers led to graphite magnesium composites
  • 1971- Dupont creates Kevlar fiber from Stephanie Kwolek’s aramid compound
  • Late 1970s – graphite sports gear, golf club shaft, graphite tennis rackets
  • 1990s- nanocomposites- create materials atom by atom

Task Two

Examples of Research on Technical Application

  1. October 31, 2016,  http://www.kraiglabs.com/new-engineered-spider-silk-has-potential-to-unseat-dragon-silk-as-world-strongest-recombinant-silk-fiber/, Kraig Biocraft Laboratories

The research presented in the article linked above is created by Kraig Biocraft Labs which is the global leader in spider silk research.  This article speaks mainly about how the labs have created a new genetically engineered silk worm that creates an even stronger silk than their current dragon silk which holds the title for the world’s strongest and most recombinant spider silk.  Although not exactly related to our research on a possibility of replacing kevlar, the idea of the new spider silk materials opens a plethora of doors and opportunities for future applications of the strength and adaptability of spider silk and spider silk composites.  Funded by mostly themselves and donators, the lead person at Kraig Biocraft labs is Dr. Randy Lewis of the University of Wyoming, our mentor.  Not doing too much research himself he is the top guy that everybody has to check with before and after research is theorized or completed.

 

2.) July 3, 2016, http://qz.com/708298/synthetic-spider-silk-could-be-the-biggest-technological-advance-in-clothing-since-nylon/, Spiber(Japanese Company), Bolt Threads(California- based startup)

The research presented in the article link above is created by two companies: Spiber, a Japanese company, and Bolt Threads (California-Based Startup). This article primarily discusses how they cannot use spiders to make the silk and how they produce the synthetic silk. They cannot use spiders to make the silk for a variety of reasons: spider silk cannot be farmed in huge quantities, spiders will eat each other if placed in close quarters, and spiders can have up to seven different types of silk. The scientists cannot control the certain type of silk they want for a specific purpose. The raw spider silk is produced through a process known as fermentation, using yeast to create the raw material of spider silk. Bolt Threads spins the raw spider silk by using a method similar to the wet-spinning process used to create cellulose-based fibers such as Lyocell. Synthetic spider silk could be used for everything from automobile parts to medical devices to performance outdoor gear, which is the area that’s attracting some of the most attention thus far. With their research, they believe that it is theoretically possible to have silk replace Kevlar and even nylon.

 

3.) March 3, 2014, http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/i9/Spider-Silk-Poised-Commercial-Entry.html/, AMSilk, Kraig Biocraft Labs, Spiber, University of Utah

The research presented in the article link above is created by AMSilk, Kraig Biocraft Labs, Spiber, and at the university of Wyoming – Dr. Randy Lewis leads the research there. This article among other things includes how the capabilities of spider silk demonstrated in the movie, Spiderman 2, could actually be made possible through science, which caught our attention. Also, even though spider silk is only a protein, it is five times stronger than steel and three times tougher than kevlar. Strength is defined as how much weight an object can bear, and toughness is how much kinetic energy it can absorb without breaking. Potential applications include cables and bulletproof vests. Because of silk’s extraordinary properties, it is capable with human DNA and has the potential to be used as artificial tendons and ligaments. It also has a thermal capacity similar to that of copper and can also be used as a heat management material. AMSilk already has sold its silk to companies to produce shampoo. These companies’ research proves that the potential for silk is endless and that silk will eventually be a huge advancement in the medical field for both as a replacement for muscle tissue as well as a replacement for kevlar for police officers and military officers.

Task Three

How the NCT Application Has Advanced Science

  • silk experimentation is in early stages
    • Early stages might be the current status but there has still been a multitude of potentially useful materials such as strong adhesives.
  • Researchers suggest that silk can theoretically replace Kevlar and other synthetic materials such as nylon, Lycra, and polyester.
  • Another possible way to create silk is through the process of fermentation
  • Not only for creating bulletproof armor, our synthetic material can serve other purposes.

            The NCT application we chose, a silk composite used to replace Kevlar, has advanced scientific knowledge because it explores practical uses of spider silk-  our application would bring science from basic silk experimentation to discover the sole uses of spider silk. How? Currently, scientific knowledge about spider silk is limited. Although we, as individuals, might not be able to actually create our  vest because of our limited resources, we might inspire someone to make our research a reality or help them start new research. Realistically, spider silk composites have only been theorized to be used as a bulletproof material; many people have combined spider silk with other substances to only create items, such as adhesives – as Kraig Biocraft Labs has done under the supervision of Dr. Randy Lewis (our technical advisor). Although adhesives might be the extent of spider silk engineering now, with young, aspiring minds in colleges and high schools around the world there is unpredictable potential for the future of materials created with silk and other materials.