Shape memory alloy (SMA, also known as memory metal) is a metal that "remembers" its initialgeometry during transformations. After a sample of SMA has been changed from its "original"conformation, it regains its original geometry during heating (one-way effect) or, at higher ambienttemperatures, during unloading (pseudo-elasticity or super-elasticity). These extraordinaryproperties are due to a temperature-dependent martensitic phase transformation from a low-symmetry to a highly symmetric crystallographic structure. (Those crystal structures are known asmartensite and austenite.)The three main types of SMA are copper-zinc-aluminum, copper-aluminum-nickel and nickel-titanium (NiTi) alloys. NiTi alloys are generally more expensive and possess superior mechanicalproperties when compared to copper-based SMAs. The temperatures at which the SMA changesits crystallographic structure are characteristic of the alloy and can be tuned by varying theelemental ratios. Typically, M
denotes the temperature at which the structure starts to changefrom austenite to martensite upon cooling; M
is the temperature at which the transition is finished.Accordingly, A
are the temperatures at which the reverse transformation from martensiteto austenite start and finish, respectively. It is important to note that repeated use of the shapememory effect may lead to a shift of the characteristic transformation temperatures (this effect isknown as functional fatigue, as it is closely related with a change of micro-structural andfunctional properties of the material).
Temperature Changes SMAsShape memory alloys may have different kinds of shape memory effect. The two most commonmemory effects are one-way and two-way.
One- and Two-Way Shape Memory EffectsThe procedures shown in Figure 1 are similar: starting from martensite (a), adding a reversibledeformation for the one-way effect or severe deformation with an irreversible amount for the two-way (b), heating the sample (c) and cooling it again (d). With the one-way effect, cooling fromhigh temperatures does not cause a macroscopic shape change. A deformation is necessary tocreate the low-temperature shape. On heating, transformation starts at A
and is completed at A
(typically 2 to 20°C or hotter, depending on the alloy or the loading conditions). A
is determinedby the alloy type and composition. It ranges between −150 and 200°C.The two-way shape memory effect is what happens when the material remembers two differentshapes: at the low temperatures and at the high temperature. This also can happen without anexternal force (intrinsic two-way effect). The reason the material behaves so differently in thesesituations lies in "training." Training implies that a shape memory can "learn" to behave in acertain way. Under normal circumstances, a shape memory alloy "remembers" its high-temperature shape, but upon heating to recover the high-temperature shape, it immediately"forgets" the low-temperature shape. However, it can be "trained" to "remember" to leave somereminders of the deformed low-temperature condition in the high-temperature phase.Nickel-titanium alloys were first developed in 1962-1963 by the Naval Ordnance Laboratory andcommercialized under the trade name Nitinol (an acronym for Nickel Titanium Naval OrdnanceLaboratories). Their properties were discovered by accident – anecdotally, samples of the alloywere being subjected to strength tests by being pounded with hammers to see how much force