Airplanes made from spider silk – IMPRESSO #18

In this edition: Airplanes made from spider silk, a biotech gamble with mutated mosquitoes and land-based coral farming to rescue our reefs


Air planes made from spider silk

Aviation companies, and thus airplane manufacturers, focus on reducing the weight of their planes. In the past decade the focus was on using materials such as carbon fibre composites. They are light but power-intensive to produce. And hard to recycle! How about building our sky-taxis with silk? Actually, spider silk. Sounds crazy? Airbus teamed up with German company AMSilk (known for its cooperation with Adidas and the biodegradable shoe) to produce synthetic spider silk. The weight, strength and flexibility properties of this material could revolutionize (not only) the aerospace industry. Read more


A biotech gamble with mutated mosquitoes

The government of Burkina Faso approved researchers’ request for releasing genetically modified male mosquitoes (the malaria-transmitting species) into the wild. If that first step succeeds and the population’s trust is gained,  the next step will be to release mosquitoes carrying mutations intended to thin the species’ population by passing those mutations down to their offspring, eventually beating malaria! This experiment is as remarkable as it is risky. No one has ever released a gene-modified animal to the wild. For good reason: there’s no “undo” button for any unforeseen consequences. Facing nearly half a million of deaths from Malaria each year, the researcher argue, the risk is worth it. Read more


Land-based coral farm to rescue reefs

By 2050 nearly 75-90% of the coral reefs in our oceans will be gone. Current initiatives addressing that challenge are only happening at a (too) small scale and pace. In the Bahamas, a very special startup is about to change that. Coral Vita, the planet’s first land-based coral farm uses a technique called “micro-fragmenting”. Basically splitting a coral into tiny little pieces. This makes the coral grow as much as 50 (!) times faster in the company’s container than under regular circumstances in the ocean. Those corals will then restore the reefs in the region. And later on, reefs across the whole planet! Awesome, right? Watch Video