Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin transform brittle germanium and silicon into nanowires that can be compressed into flexible, tissue-like sheets with the potential to stop bullets, power electronic devices or even cloak wearers in invisibility. “It’s so neat when people do what nanoscience is supposed to do: cramming these well known materials into very small dimensions to get entirely new properties,” says Jillian Buriak, University of Alberta. “It’s like teaching an old dog new tricks.” While germanium wires have strength-to-weight ratios similar to those of Kevlar™, the bonds formed among the fibers are not as strong. Germanium and silicon nanowires both collect solar energy, but a germanium-based photovoltaic cell won’t absorb light as well. The Texas researchers continue to refine the nanowires and find ways to package them in forms that can be used in products.