Russian parachute material, c 1940s.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Material made of nylon 6. Nylon is a polyamide first developed by Wallace Hume Carothers (1896-1937) in the United States during the 1930s. It has a protein-like structure, and is made by condensation between an amino group of one molecule and a carboxylic acid group of another. When nylon is heated and extruded through tiny holes under pressure, this forms many thin fibres which are quickly pulled away so that they cool and stretch. Nylon was found to give filaments with far greater strength and resistance to heat and water than any previous man-made fibre.