A metamaterial from the team at the University of Michigan that switches from hard to soft could lead to vehicles able to absorb the impact from a crash.
The metamaterial is unique in that its surface will change between hard and soft when subjected to a small amount of strain—a characteristic that has been difficult to achieve before. This was made possible by creating a lattice of struts connected by hinges, which will change when subjected to a slight, twisting stress and become harder or softer. Because the hinges absorb the stress, the change in firmness can be repeated without damaging the structure.
The team believes applications for the material could range from self-adjusting bicycle tires to reusable rockets that shift to soft for landing.