A shape memory alloy is a type of metal which has the property of being able to contract a certain length when heated to a certain temperature then revert back to the start length after cooling past a certain temperature. A commercial name for such a product is Muscle Wire. Shape memory alloys are generally available in wire form and a small current is usually enough to heat them past the temperature at which they contract.

I won a copy of the Muscle Wires Project Book (complete with samples of Muscle Wire) through a drawing at Robot Wars (AFAIK the only one that ever took place in SF). It 'got lost' in my ex's house though so I never got to play with it.

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