Scientists at the University of Minnesota have developed a new metal alloy that can return to its original shape, even if it’s been bent more than 10 million times.
The applications for a material like this are virtually endless. In the future you could fix a dent on your car simply by pouring hot water on it. Bendable or shapeable phones could be easily returned to their standard setting.
The resulting material can be deformed – and regain its shape – at least 10 million times without fatigue. As Wuttig explains, this opens new possibilities for tiny motors with very few moving parts, artificial heart valves that can expand and contract to help regulate blood flow, or refrigerators incorporating the new material that changes shape as it absorbs heat, as a way of keeping their contents cool.
Materials like this aren’t entirely new, however this new alloy doesn’t have the problem of metal fatigue. Due to this we might see this material being used in consumer products much sooner than one might think.
To test the material the team stretched and relaxed it 20 times per second for about six days, repeatedly placing the alloy under almost double the stress needed to buckle structural steel. Perhaps even more significantly, a swathe of new transforming materials could just be around the corner, James says. Researchers have learned from Quandt and Wuttig’s technique and are zeroing in on materials that not only change shape, but also have magnetic or electrical properties. “The field is moving rapidly forward due to these results,” says James