Copenhagen – It can be strong like steel, but shimmer like silk. It's PolyPower, a somewhat astounding material devised by Danfoss, the Danish industrial giant. The fabric contracts and expands with small jolts of electricity. Give it a zap, and the fabric shrinks up. Take away the power, and it expands again. Because it is flexible and very thin, PolyPower can be manipulated in various ways for different jobs. At a demonstration at Copenmind, a three-day conference hoping to link up university researchers with corporations and investors, scientists showed how a roll of PolyPower – about half the diameter of a full roll of paper towels – can lift a five kilometer weight a few millimeters when jolted with a small dose of power. When the power stops, the weight drops. The PolyPower roll, however, weighs far less than a steel piston, which makes it cheaper and more energy efficient to ship. It also won't wear out or start to wear out its cylinder. PolyPower also works efficiently. The zap of electricity essentially turns the sheet of material into a capacitor, explained Hans-Erik Kiil, director of research and development at Danfoss PolyPower (To commercialize the technology, Danfoss created a separate company.) Thus, when the material contracts or expands, the energy is being delivered directly. In a traditional piston system, energy is delivered to a mechanical device (the piston) and the mechanical device then moves the object. The material has a number of uses. Rolls of the fabric could be used to close valves or position sensors. You could also coat the end of robot actuators with the fabric. The movement and shrink of the fabric can be precisely controlled, he said. You could also prevent the material from stretching after it gets a blast of electricity. This would allow force to build up In another demo, Danfoss researchers used a piece to transmit sound, like a speaker. In the future, the fabric could even be used to harvest ambient power, he said. In the pictures, you're looking at a few rolls of PolyPower and a strip of PolyPower used to pull two metal objects on a track together. But check out the wacky champagne gold color. Couldn't you see Cher wearing a dress made of that singing "Half Breed." Other companies have tried this in the past. Danfoss, though, says its material is different in that it requires very little energy and can be made cheaply. The film is produced with the roll-to-roll process used in plastics. I have to admit. It was one of the cooler demos I've seen in a while.