Whenever Jens Klein wants to persuade famous companies to visit Amsilk, his small company, at its offices in a small town near Munich, he presents them with a vision: “In a department store, in a couple of years, you’ll go through the textile department, through sportswear and cosmetics. And everywhere you’ll see our products.” In other words, the potential of this small company is huge: “One day, we’ll be selling millions of units.”
The company works in what is a crucial field of the future: industrial biotechnology. “It’s about taking the best of nature and manufacturing it industrially,” says Mr. Klein. The firm has developed a procedure to manufacture synthetic spider silk. Coliform bacteria are genetically modified to produce the protein fiber in huge steel tanks. This can be turned into a dried silk powder, usable in textiles, cosmetics or as a coating for prosthetics.
Natural production of spider silk – by milking silk spiders – is elaborate and expensive. Also, according to animal rights group PETA, as many as 50000 silkworms can die to produce a single silk dress.
Synthetic silk is soft, flexible and robust. But, most importantly, it is 100 percent biodegradable. New sustainable materials are currently a major theme in the outdoor and sportswear sectors, as customers look for functional apparel that is durable and quick drying. A jacket that can do all that will easily sell for more than $200. But buyers also want its production to be as ecologically-friendly as possible.