Into the Future: The 5 Most Influential Smart Materials

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As TEDGlobal Fellow Catarina Mota puts it: "It's time to play" with Smart Materials.

From Outer Space to the Deep Ocean, researchers are rapidly developing new materials with an awareness once relegated to silver-screen science fiction. 

In August, a consortium of researchers from Penn State University and other institutions announced a landmark finding: a "multiphase polymer derived from the genetic code of squid ring teeth." Self-healing via water -- even a drop -- the breakthrough is a potential boon for everything from ballasts and underwater fiber-optics, to vascular stents and engine repair.

And in what some are calling the "Terminator Polymer," NASA-backed researchers announced just last week the development of a dual-layered polymer that self-heals via a liquid sublayer. Like James Cameron's Terminator, the material boasts the ability to heal after sustaining ballistics damage. Already, NASA is aiming to use the material in space flight, while other applications from transportation to manufacturing are being researched. 

As manufacturers and engineers, the future is now. It's time to play, to get our hands dirty. We stand at the forefront of a revolution a long time coming. We will be responsible for the processes and products defined by Smart Materials, their design, manufacture, and distribution. So join us as we examine the 5 essential materials that have led us here and will lead us forward. 

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