A new form of "shape memory polymers" have the ability to return to their previous form once damaged, thanks to embedded fibre optics that let them warm themselves back to health with light.
The materials, which are being worked on by engineer Henry Sodano's team at Arizona State University, are filled with a mesh of fibre optic cables that detect damage when light leaks through a breakage. The leaking light then delivers heat to the source of the damage, which is absorbed, warming the area and triggering the material's heat-based shape memory properties.
It is very complicated, but could one day lead to the creation of a pen lid that reshapes itself once chewed. There's a short video demo of the material up on YouTube. [Smartplanet via Engadget and PopSci]