Looking Back at the 100 Best Innovations of 2009

X-Flex is a new kind of wallpaper: one that's quite possibly stronger than the wall it's on. Invented by Berry Plastics in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this lifesaving adhesive is designed for use anyplace that's prone to blasts and other lethal forces, like in war or natural-disaster zones, chemical plants or airports. To keep a shelter's walls from collapsing in an explosion and to contain all the flying debris, you simply peel off the wallpaper's sticky backing, apply the rollable sheets to the inside of brick or cinder-block walls, and reinforce it with fasteners at the edges. Covering an entire room can take less than an hour. X-Flex bonds so tightly, it helps walls keep their shape after blast waves. Two layers are strong enough to stop a blunt object, like a flying 2x4, from knocking down drywall. During our tests, just a single layer kept a wrecking ball from smashing through a brick wall. The wallpaper's strength and ductility is derived from a layer of Kevlar-like material sandwiched by sheets of elastic polymer wrap. The combination works so well that the Army is now considering wallpapering bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Civilians could soon start remodeling too—Berry Plastics plans to develop a commercial version next year. See a video of X-Flex in action at the Best of What's New 2009 site.

If you’re like me, the holiday break is all about consuming everyone’s year-end recaps–and of course, looking ahead to the year to come. We’re taking a short break here on PopSci.com, but we’re not going to leave you hanging with nothing–here we’ve compiled both our year-end Best of What’s New list and our look ahead to 2010 in science, all in one place for your holiday enjoyment.

Click here to launch our Best of What’s New list gallery with all 100 innovations, sorted by category. You may have already checked out our list on the Best of What’s New site; if not, it’s a great way to get familiar with the best of the year in gadgets, engineering, green tech and more. Be sure to use the links within the gallery to check out more photos and video over on the Best of What’s New site.

And click here to check out our 2010 preview from the January issue to get a jump on the stories to follow in medicine, aviation, space, entertainment and more.

We’ll be back in the new year ready to dive into the maelstrom that is the Consumer Electronics Show, the biggest electronics tradeshow in the world. The fun begins in Las Vegas on January 6.

Have a happy holidays and an excellent new year everyone, and as always, thanks for reading. It’s been a great year, and much of the thanks for that is due to you!