d3o and it's a polymer compound that is flexible enough for the person wearing it to run, jump, roll or just about anything else. But when performing under a high impact scenario, like a slalom crash or a series of balletic leaps, the molecules lock up and it becomes rock hard, protecting the athlete from injury.

It's a material that's strong enough to withstand beatings from baseball bats; it's flexible enough to create a suit for extreme skiers and snowboarders; it makes for a cool looking beanie, but will protect your head as good as any helmet. And now it's being used to save the feet of ballerinas whose toes have been gnarled like tree roots for centuries.

d3o was invented by former DuPont scientist Richard Palmer. When he was trying to persuade investors to believe in his product he couldn't get anyone's support. His tenacity paid off, in 2007 Palmer was named the O2X Entrepreneur of the Year in London.