Remember that scene from Batman Begins where Christian Bale leaps off a building grabbing his cape with the gloves that Morgan Freeman made him to send an electrical charge through the material that caused it to firm up in the shape of a wing? Well a material like that actually exists.
Researchers from North Carolina State University are experimenting with a squishy hydrogel that does some pretty amazing things when an electric current passes through it. Just hook up a copper electrode, turn the current on, and sections of the gel stiffen causing the whole thing to change shape. It's a reaction called 'ionoprinting' that's caused by the copper ions travelling through the hydrogel. The implications for such a substance are exciting as it mimics biological material. "In the nearer term, the technique may have applications for drug delivery or tissue scaffolding and directing cell growth in three dimensions, for example," N.C. State professor Dr. Orlin Velev explains. "We are currently planning to use this technique to develop motile, biologically compatible microdevices."
But let's be honest. The scientists should probably make a cape out of it. If there's anything science is good for after all, it's coming so very close to making all of our wildest superhero fantasies come true! [PopSci]