Do not fold, spindle or mutilate. Those instructions were once printed on punch cards that fed data to mainframe computers. Today's smart phones process more data, but they still weren't built for being shoved into back pockets.
In the quest to build gadgets that can survive such abuse, engineers have been testing electronic systems based on a new materials that are both flexible and switchable – that is, capable of toggling between two electrical states, on-off, one-zero, the binary commands that can program all things digital.
Now three Stanford researchers believe that they've discovered just such a flexible, switchable material. It is a crystal that can form a paper-like sheet just three atoms thick. Computer simulations show that this crystalline lattice has the remarkable ability to behave like a switch: it can be mechanically pulled and pushed, back and forth, between two different atomic structures – one that conducts electricity well, the other that does not.