New Life for Nitinol

Nickel titanium, also known as nitinol, is a metal alloy of nickel and titanium, where the two elements are present in roughly equal atomic percentages.

Nitinol alloys exhibit two closely related and unique properties: shape memory and superelasticity (also called pseudoelasticity). Shape memory is the ability of nitinol to undergo deformation at one temperature, then recover its original, undeformed shape upon heating above its “transformation temperature”. Superelasticity occurs at a narrow temperature range just above its transformation temperature; in this case, no heating is necessary to cause the undeformed shape to recover, and the material exhibits enormous elasticity, some 10-30 times that of ordinary metal.

Commercialized nitinol in the form of Flexinol® Actuator Wire can flex and contract when a specific amount of heat or current is applied to it and is made specifically for linear actuators to replace small motors or solenoids thanks to shape memory and a change between the wires weaker, low temperature form (martensitic) and its stronger, high temperature form (austenite).

When the Flexinol® is in its martensitic form, it can be formed and bent into different shapes. However, when an electrical current of ~200mA is applied to the wire, or is heated to ~100C it reverts to austenite form and recovers its previous shape with great force. Additionally, you can anneal it at ~500C (use an industrial furnace or simply a lighter) to whatever shape you would want, next once that current or heat is applied it will return to that new shape.

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