A new type of shape-shifting technology modeled on ancient chainmail armor has been developed by scientists at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and the California Institute of Technology in the U.S., as reported by the two universities. Described by the researchers as a type of “wearable structured fabric,” the material quickly changes from flexible to stiff due to carefully arranged interlocking particles. The team set out to develop a fabric that can easily transition from soft and foldable to rigid and load bearing by first investigating how structured but hollow particles could be interlocked to form a fabric with stiffness that could be altered on command. “We used plastic hollow particles that are interlocked to enhance our tunable fabric’s stiffness,” says study author assistant professor Wang Yifan. “To further increase the material’s stiffness and strength, we are now working on fabrics made from metals including aluminum, which could be used for larger-scale industrial applications requiring higher load capacity, such as bridges or buildings.” Photo: Nanyang Technological University.