A Spanish company called Tecnalia has developed a new type of fabric that can be made to go from soft to hard and back again. Called VarStiff, the material’s default state is soft, like regular fabric; but attaching a vacuum to an embedded valve and sucking all of the air out turns the material rigid, “[achieving] hardness equivalent to that of a conventional plastic.” To get it soft again, re-introduce air.
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Wish my Spanish was a little better. Looks like a perfect material for first responders needing to stabilize something like a broken leg. Folds flat in the ambulance, form fits an individual’s limb, and can be set with a foot pump. Neat.