Travel is one of the most wonderful experiences on the planet for everyone except the planet itself. Air travel is the number one culprit of pollution associated with travel as it contributes to noise pollution, uses non-renewable resources for fuel, and emits billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the environment annually. However, there is a silver lining. Many airlines are in the process of researching and implementing new fuels and materials that can reduce their carbon footprint and make air travel less polluted.

In the past, carbon fiber seemed the best method for reducing weight on airplanes, which would lead to less fuel consumption. While carbon fiber is durable and can be molded into any shape, it is exceedingly difficult to recycle and is energy-intensive to manufacture. As a result, many airline manufacturers have been searching for more environmentally friendly options. Of all the options available such as hydrogen fuel systems, solar power, and low carbon fuel, the most exciting and unexpected comes from spiders.

The aerospace corporation, Airbus, discovered a surprising solution to their need for a strong, durable, yet lightweight replacement for carbon fiber: synthetic spider silk. AMSilk is a German manufacturer who developed the industrial strength silk biopolymer for use in the air industry. The synthetic material took the flexibility and superior strength qualities of spider silk and transformed the material into Biosteel.

Many environmentally friendly alternatives use massive amounts of energy, often non-renewable, in their manufacturing process. Biosteel does not use fossil fuels or high temperatures during manufacture, which makes it both sustainable and energy-efficient. AMSilk aims to debut a prototype that could revolutionize the air travel industry by making it considerably more sustainable in 2019.

Many other industries, such as the textile and medical industries, have incorporated Biosteel into their products such as running shoes and medical implants. The lightweight yet durable quality of AMSilk’s Biosteel product is creating an international sensation. Athletic wear companies, such as Adidas, can and do offer more environmentally friendly options and its applications in medicine have increased acceptance rates of implants in procedures.

While Airbus and AMSilk are leading the way for more sustainable options in air travel, there is still a long way to go before every airline becomes energy efficient. The prototype coming in 2019 will be the first large-scale test on the long road towards implementation in the industry. However, the steps airlines are now taking to improve their sustainability and the planet’s is something travelers can eagerly look forward to.