Researchers at the University of Oxford are developing groundbreaking silk, which they hope could be used to enable space travel as it is able to withstand some of the most extreme environments known to man.
While the fibers of most materials become brittle and crack as the temperature drops, the silks from spiders and silk worms tested by the team get stronger.
Fritz Vollrath, a professor at the University, said: "Spider silk is about five times tougher than Kevlar, which is the best material that we can make. It has interesting properties – it's both strong and stretchable, and it's lightweight."
The professor has been fascinated by the properties of spider's silk for decades, having collaborated with broadcaster David Attenborough on researching its properties 30 years ago.
Vollrath and his team published a paper in Materials Chemistry Frontiers that detailed their belief that tiny fibrillar tendrils within silk are crucial for the product, dissipating the cracks before the material rips.
The research has been conducted in collaboration with Chinese scientists from Shanghai's Fudan University and Beihang University in Beijing. Juan Guan from Beihang hailed the collaboration: "We have been working together for many years, so I think it's important that we combine different research strengths together to answer one question."
Weight-for-weight, silk is around 20 times more valuable than gold. Considered for centuries one of the world's most opulent goods, it could become the practical product of the future.