Shape Memory Alloy Applications

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Dr. Angela Douglass

Second Advisor

Dr. Ruth Plymale

Third Advisor

Dr. Allyson Phillips


Shape memory alloys (SMAs) are unique mixtures of metals that have qualities unlike any other substance. Most notably is their ability to "remember" a shape and revert back to that shape with the application of heat. One such alloy is the Ni-Ti alloy, Nitinol. SMAs also have many other favorable characteristics such as superelasticity, biocompatibility and much more. Superelasticity is the ability to bend under stress and then return to its original shape with the removal of the stressor. Biocompatibility means that the SMAs are not toxic to living organisms, whether they are only used periodically or left in permanently. Today they are used in everything from the Mars rover to dental wire. Since their discovery, SMAs have made a significant impact on engineering and medicine because of their unique properties. However, names such as shape memory alloys and Nitinol are still unknown to the general public who is unaware of their amazing potential in almost every facet of technology. Even engineering student researchers of the J.D. Patterson Summer Research Program did not learn about SMAs until they investigated them in their research during the summer of 2017. After much research, the power of this shape memory quality was harnessed to create a passive tracking model for the solar panel system that is now a charging station on campus. This project highlights the significance of SMAs and the need to promote their awareness. On top of that, the market for SMAs is astronomical and would be a worthwhile investment. The financial, medical, and mechanical importance of SMAs cannot be understated; therefore, they need to continue being pursued in both medical and nonmedical applications because of their proven uses in the past and their incredible potential in the future.

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