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Shape Memory Alloy

Shape Memory Alloy

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Published by: pandyaniraj on Feb 07, 2010
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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
and 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). 
Figure 1:
Temperature Changes SMAsShape memory alloys may have different kinds of shape memory effect. The two most commonmemory effects are one-way and two-way. 
Figure 2:
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
was necessary to deform them. After several dents were created, the researchers left thesamples on a windowsill and went to lunch – upon their return, the researchers discovered thatthe dents had "repaired" themselves.The range of applications for SMAs has increased in recent years – particularly in medicine. Oneexample is the development of dental braces that exert a constant pressure on the teeth.Patented in 1972 by American orthodontist George Andreasen, he changed the formula – andthen formally introduced the use of Nitinol – for use in arch wires to straighten teeth. The SMArevolutionized orthodontia as well as fiber optic development because it returns to its originalshape after being bent. The alloy has a patterned shape memory that expands and contracts togiven temperatures because of its geometric programming.There have been limited studies on using these materials in robotics as they make it possible tocreate very light robots. Weak points of the technology are energy inefficiency, slow responsetimes and largehysteresis.Metal alloys are not the only thermally-responsive materials. Shape memory polymers have alsobeen developed and became commercially available in the late 1990s.There is another type of SMA called ferromagnetic shape memory alloys (FSMA) that changesshape under strong magnetic fields. These materials are of particular interest as the magneticresponse tends to be quicker and more efficient than temperature-induced responses.Why does a metal or an alloy have memory? Dr. Frederick E. Wang, an expert in crystallinestructures, had the early answers to this phenomenon – Nitinol undergoes phase changes whileremaining a solid. Normally these phase changes occur in an alloy when heated to its meltingpoint. Different phase changes occur at different temperatures. In shape memory alloys, thesephase transformations occur below its melting point. Thus, the alloys can retain their shapewithout melting. Some alloys change shape within a small difference in temperature. Under thetransition temperature, Nitinol is in the martensite phase and can be bent into various shapes. Toset the "parent shape," the metal must be held in position and heated to about 500°C. (varies for different SMAs). The high temperature causes the atoms to arrange themselves into highsymmetry, often cubic arrangement known as the austenite phase.The medical, aerospace and marine industries are the largest consumers of shape memory components.Stents became the most effective device for treating heart coronary diseases.They are inserted in the deformed shape and expand upon reaching bodytemperature to open arteries and increase blood flow. SMAs can also aidsurgical treatment of heart valve dysfunctions. An artificial heart valve containsa circular body, a disk-shaped locking element and an anti-friction elementbetween the body and locking element made from bio-neutral material, based on polymer shapememory alloys, as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4:
Section of Artificial Heart ValveShape form memory is used for wires, which continuously and gently apply force to correctmisaligned teeth, as opposed to the periodic and uncomfortable tightening required by stainlesssteel braces. The wires work similar to a gentle spring – applying the gentle force necessary to fixcrooked teeth. 
Figure 3:
Stentfor Medical Use
In neurosurgery, SMAs are used to stabilize vertebrae, which help with functional movements.The holder is made from shape memory alloys, and has legs and a working area. The workingarea is made as one or several loops, which can be stretched when cooled. Legs are made ashalf-spirals, with the legs’ plane at 100-140° to the working area’s plane. (See Figure 5.)
Figure 5:
SMAs to Stabilize VertebraeFigure 6 shows a device for monitoring the moisture of the surrounding environment. The devicecontains two sensitive elements that are made from SMA materials. The difference betweenthese elements moves a writing element that is connected to a time recorder. The result is anincreased accuracy of measurements. 
Figure 6:
Moisture Monitor The development of new connections between concrete pipes to move water and sewage arebased on the memory effect in polymers, as shown in Figure 7. These connections begin withdigging a trench and a pit to connect the ends of adjoining pipes. Then a pipe (on its end) isplaced in the trench and an open roughing clamp (with packing material) is placed over the pit.The packing element includes a polyethylene shell created by winding polyethylene film – withthermo-setting qualities and allowed thermal development. As a result, the connections betweenthe pipes become very strong. (The optimal characteristics of the required pipe connectioninclude 6-8 layers of polyethylene thermosetting film and temperatures between 100-105°C.
Figure 7:
Water and Sewage ConnectorsAging concrete pipelines become affected by different aggressive components of sewage andbacteria, which appear in air gaps in the pipeline. These harmful factors led to pipeline collapses.Researchers worked to develop a method that would allow pipelines to be repaired from theinside, which would be faster and cheaper than external fixes.One of the most effective ways to rehabilitate pipelines was based on the shape memory effect. Itwas developed as a plastic alloy – a plastic pipe folded along its horizontal axis, moved throughthe pipeline and was then pushed through the pipeline with the help of hot water or hightemperature steam. During heating, the polymer material remembered its initial shape, returnedto its initial form and returned the pipeline to work. Figure 8 shows a fragment of pipeline with adeformed plastic "pipeline" before the final step – moving the hot agent through the pipeline.
Figure 8:
Rehabilitating PipelinesPipeline rehabilitation has more interesting applications, including how the shape memory effectcan help prevent the destruction of building during earthquakes. We will return to this topic in

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