Accelerating Science Discovery - Join the Discussion

Shape-Memory Materials Magic

by Kathy Chambers on Tue, February 23, 2016

Hubble Space Telescope Courtesy of NASAHubble Space Telescope Courtesy of NASA

Just like magic, shape-memory materials have the ability to be transformed into another shape and then return to their original shape—or in some cases even metamorphose into a third shape before returning to their original shape.  This transformation is possible because the crystalline structure of shape-memory alloys allows them to sense and respond to their environment.  Shape-memory transformation behavior can now be created by thermal, light, or chemical environments. Shape-memory alloys have been used by the research community for well over a decade to accomplish tasks that were not possible otherwise.   

Visit OSTI's Catalogue of Collections to learn about the magic happening with shape-memory technology by DOE researchers and U.S. federal agencies.

SciTech Connect is DOE's premier full-text source for research and development results in the OSTI Collections.  A myriad of DOE's research projects have utilized shape-memory materials such as endovascular therapiesenergy-efficient cooling systems that use an elastic shape-memory metal alloy as a refrigerant, and the discovery of shape-shifting plastic to produce stronger and stiffer composite parts such as carbon fiber that can later be recycled or reprocessed.  These and so many more technological advances are now a reality because shapes can be remembered. 

A search of reveals that NASA created arms out of a shape-memory alloy on the Hubble Space Telescope solar panels, which opened when warmed by the sun after reaching space.  Cerebral aneurysms have been treated with shape-memory foam that absorbs blood, which congeals and forms clots to help stop blood flow inside the aneurysm.  And, shape-memory alloys have enabled the creation of tendon-based systems for lightweight and dexterous robotics and prosthetics. 

An overview of shape-memory materials characteristics and capabilities is provided in William Watson's latest white paper "In the OSTI Collections: Shape-Memory Materials."

Related OSTI Products: In the OSTI Collections
Other Related Topics: fiber, plastic, Shape-Memory, solar
Page last updated on 2017-03-14 04:00

About the Author

Kathy Chambers's picture
Kathy Chambers
Technical Writer, Information International Associates, Inc.