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"The whole problem of energy sources is going to be solved by little solutions, not by some big new piece of technology that does everything. We got into this crisis by believing that we had one big piece of technology that would do everything (oil)."
- Gregory Benford

Memory Plastic  
  Takes various shapes impressed into it on command.  

Just how many different functions can you design into a single room? Lots, if you're using memory plastic.

I'd glanced into the bathroom, knowing what I would find. It was the size of a comfortable shower stall. An adjustment panel outside the door would cause it to extrude various appurtenances in memory plastic, to become a washroom, a shower stall, a toilet, a dressing room, a steam cabinet. Luxurious in everything but size, as long as you pushed the right buttons.
From Death by Ecstasy, by Larry Niven.
Published by Galaxy Magazine in 1969
Additional resources -

Compare to the plastex from J.G. Ballard's 1962 story The Thousand Dreams of Stella Vista.

This kind of material is starting to make headlines almost forty years after Niven wrote about the idea; I don't know if this is an original idea of Niven's or whether the idea was in the air in the late 1960's.

Researchers at MIT and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers have invented a class of materials so remarkable for their agility in changing shape as they react to heat, they might be described as acrobatic plastics.

The new materials, known as "triple-shape materials," can assume three different shapes, each shape depending on how much heat is applied.

This landmark achievement comes from the laboratories of chemical engineer Robert Langer of MIT and polymer chemist Andreas Lendlein of the Helmholtz Institute in Teltow, Germany.

"The series above illustrates the triple shape effect of a fastener consisting of a plate with two anchors prepared from CL(50)EG: Starting at 20 degrees Celsius, the device, in an easily-handled form, is put into a scaffold, right, which might be difficult to access (a). Increasing the temperature to 40 C triggers unfolding and positioning into the cavity, left (figures b to d). Increasing the temperature to 60 C enables the anchors of the fastener to open and to couple the device into a well-defined position (e to f). In both series, above and left, the material CL(50)EG used to produce the demonstration object is a two-phase polymer network consisting of 50 percent poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) by weight and 50 percent poly(e-caprolactone) (PCL) by weight. Photo / GKSS Research Center 2006"
Triple shape materials at MIT

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  More Ideas and Technology from Death by Ecstasy
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