University of Minnesota scientists reported a prototype in the journal “Nature” of a shape-changing metal crystal that offers a new reversibility aspect and does not degrade over time.

It is part of a new family of smart materials that scientists hope will be used in various ways, from space vehicles to home electronics.

This new metal is part of the martensite family. Martensite is made out of a mixture of nickel and titanium. The crystal has two arrangements of atoms and switches seamlessly between the two different sequences. The atoms that make up the structure rearrange themselves when heated or cooled to a certain temperature. The metal can change its shape when it’s heated or cooled without any signs of the metal degrading, which is unlike any existing martensite technology.

To add to this remarkable new technology, the alloyed mixture of metals has a unique ability to return to its original form, even after being bent, as if it remembers its original shape. Scientists have termed this “shape memory” metal.

Because of the ability to change shape under temperature change without any sign of degrading, this new mixture can be used in smart mechanisms that respond to temperature change.

One of the future applications for this technology is to make devices directly convert heat to electricity. For example, the heat generated from computers and cell phones could be used to recharge the battery and make the device more efficient.

Information gathered from BBC News.

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