It is the prototype of a new family of smart materials that could be used in applications ranging from space vehicles to electronics to jet engines.

Called a "martensite", the crystal has two different arrangements of atoms, switching seamlessly between them.

It can change shape tens of thousands of times when heated and cooled without degrading, unlike existing technology.

Currently, martensite metals are made of an alloyed mixture of nickel and titanium.

They have the remarkable ability to "remember" their shape and even after being bent will return to their original form. For this, they are called "shape memory" metals.