Researchers at Cornell University say they have managed to create a polymer that not only mimics silkworm silk but also has properties that far exceed the natural system. And early applications for the materials are likely to be in protective clothing fabrics where elasticity and strength are key requirements. 

The basic crystalline structure of the silk spun by silkworms features a regular pattern in which the molecular chain folds back and forth on itself to give elasticity. The team at Cornell has managed to combine these natural and synthetic molecules in a sequence of hard and soft blocks, thus creating novel materials that are extremely flexible, strong and water soluble.

Lab samples can be stretched by 300 per cent before breaking, giving them an unrivalled combination of elasticity and strength.