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Morphing Metals 121

Posted by samzenpus
from the forge-ahead dept.
aarondubrow writes "Imagine a metal that 'remembers' its original, cold-forged shape, and can return to that shape when exposed to heat or a magnetic pulse. Like magic out of a Harry Potter novel, such a metal could contract on command, or swing back and forth like a pendulum. Believe it or not, such metals already exist. First discovered in 1931, they belong to a class of materials called 'shape memory alloys (SMA),' whose unique atomic make-up allows them to return to their initial form, or alternate between forms through a phase change."
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Morphing Metals

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  • What was the purpouse of this summary?

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      I guess it's to remind us of an over ten years old technology that we're still not using on a daily basis. So we don't completely forget about it.

      Maybe it still causes too much paradox for the Technocracy and they need to really convince the humanity that it should work, so they can advance towards the liquid metal terminators. But it's unlikely, with most of those concepts being imaginary and all.

      • Re:Yes and? (Score:5, Informative)

        by necro81 (917438) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @07:09AM (#33597852) Journal

        technology that we're still not using on a daily basis

        Are you kidding me? I use Nitinol [wikipedia.org] (the main shape memory alloy) every time I put on my glasses. Many shape memory alloys exhibit a behavior other than the heat-activated shape memory effect: superelasticity [wikipedia.org]. That is what allows me to bend my frames [youtube.com] in all kinds of weird ways without having the metal permanently deform.

        • Re:Yes and? (Score:4, Informative)

          by DevConcepts (1194347) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @07:59AM (#33598052)

          Nitinol is also used many permanent implantable medical devices such as stents http://www.euroflex-gmbh.de/pdfs/medical.pdf [euroflex-gmbh.de] [PDF] and having developed a few devices with Nitinol, it is simply amazing to see it work.

          • by Fnkmaster (89084)

            Yeah, I think this stuff is used in small quantities in lots of clever applications that we just don't tend to think of regularly. The people whining about it being just hype are pissed that it hasn't enabled flying cars or large mechanical robot suits yet.

        • by mehemiah (971799)
          So we don't completely forget about it. Gamers who played Metal Gear Solid [metalgearsolid.org] should never forget the PAL key [playstation.com] puzzle that required the use of a shape memory alloy.
        • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

          We had those glasses when I was in high-school, and that was over 10 years ago, and I know they weren't new then.

          The OP seems to think we should have cars that do their own body work or some shit like that, but doesn't consider the other features of such metals which make them useless in that type of application - things like the super-elasticity you mentioned makes them worthless for structural purposes of any kind. They are also damned expensive to make compared to things like hardened steel.

          There is a p

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            If they were cheap enough you could use them as body panels on a car and use a tube steel or similar for the actual structure. If the real structure is warped in an accident, just replace it.

    • Re:Yes and? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by radtea (464814) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @09:13AM (#33598582)

      To ensure we all know that aarondubrow and/or the /. editors are incapable of imagining that almost everyone is familiar with an 80-year-old technology that they happen to have never heard of before.

      This is a common phenomenon: people generally project their own state of mind on everyone else. They are also incredibly touchy when you point this out, which tells you how deeply internalized this tendency is.

      I was going to make a crack here about all the religious people who think that non-religious people have non-religion as their religion, but thinking that was too inflamatory I then considered describing my recent experience with configuring printing on an embedded Debian system, and how the documentation still fails utterly to allow the user what Eric Raymond calls "the luxury of ignorance", instead approaching the problem from an expert's point of view that is completely useless to a n00b like me, but realized that would probably be even more inflamatory, and I honestly can't think of a case that wouldn't really piss someone off, which suggests how universal the phenomenon is and how sensitive people are when you call them on it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by synaptik (125) *

      I dunno, but there's this device called a "L.A.S.E.R." that sounds promising. Slashdot submission coming soon.

      • I dunno, but there's this device called a "L.A.S.E.R." that sounds promising. Slashdot submission coming soon.

        This Slashdot thread has now officially jumped the shark.
        waitaminute, maybe you could attach one of those...

    • by Phoghat (1288088)
      To remind us of the Mighty Morphing Power Metals.

      I'm so ashamed

  • News? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ColdGrits (204506) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @05:43AM (#33597560)
    Are we to expect a slew of articles about 80 year old discoveries now?!

    SMAs have been well known about for decades, well written about for decades, just what is the point if this article?!
    • Re:News? (Score:5, Informative)

      by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday September 16, 2010 @05:48AM (#33597580) Journal

      SMAs have been well known about for decades, well written about for decades, just what is the point if this article?!

      I remember reading this in Popular Science (from Jan 1988):

      http://books.google.com/books?id=dQEAAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA78&ots=kS_1AvijAF [google.com]

    • Re:News? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Barryke (772876) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @05:48AM (#33597582) Homepage

      Where are those mod-points when i need 'm. Its a plot!

    • Re:News? (Score:5, Funny)

      by thoughtfulbloke (1091595) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @06:01AM (#33597624)
      If you like this article, you may excited to read other breaking tech news:
      • The cyclotron was invented
      • Thomas Edison submits last patent
      • Emerson Iron lung perfected
      • Deuterium discovered
    • In the last ten years there has been several articles about morphing metals, but they were actually about new kinds of morphing metals.

      • by bvimo (780026)

        Where there any new kinds of articles about old kinds of mighty-morphing metals, maybe something in the cloud?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by SeaFox (739806)

      Are we to expect a slew of articles about 80 year old discoveries now?!

      Look at the bright side: none of the articles will be dupes!

      • by ColdGrits (204506)
        <quote><blockquote><div><p>Are we to expect a slew of articles about 80 year old discoveries now?!</p></div></blockquote><p>Look at the bright side: none of the articles will be dupes!</p></quote>

        Not for another 80 years, anyway.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mark Hood (1630)

      You used to be able to buy glasses with frames made from this, especially for kids - the idea being you could sit on them, scrunch them up in a bag and they'd just straighten out with body heat, when you put them on. Obviously you got scratch resist lenses too.

      They seem to do them for adults now too http://www.framesdirect.com/flexon/ [framesdirect.com]

      Mark

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GORby_ (101822)

        Well, I guess if they straighten out with body heat, and you sit on them, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise...

    • by gl4ss (559668)
      I remember getting glasses as a kid that supposedly had this memory thing. you could twist them 180 degrees from the middle, and they would return to normal(I suppose they were titanium).

      how on earth did they break then? a snowball in a snowball fight from the behind snapped a connection on side of the frame that hold one of those two things that go behind the ear(I suppose there's a real word for that part, but that connection was the weakest part).
    • by CODiNE (27417)

      The point of this article is to hype Apple's investment in LiquidMetal.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The point of this article is to hype Apple's investment in LiquidMetal.

        Are they planning on releasing an iTerminator?

        • Are they planning on releasing an iTerminator?

          I hope so! That means it'll be so overpriced that no one can afford it, it will only run protocols available through the app store, and if you hold it just right, it poweres down on its own. Oh...it has no shurikans either. Yay!

    • Re:News? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ultranova (717540) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @07:37AM (#33597956)

      SMAs have been well known about for decades, well written about for decades, just what is the point if this article?!

      Someone who's education consists of Harry Potter novels just looked at a random Wikipedia article and realized you can do pretty neat stuff with science too. It's kinda cute, really, and we should be kind and supportive of this potential butterfly of wisdom just starting to emerge from the shell of ignorance.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      After reading TFA, it said they discovered the fundamentals of SMAs are different than previously believed. Supercomputer simulations are being used to determine what other atomic structures can have multiple modes with different equalibriums. They propose they can discover more principles of SMAs, and it will lead to new ones being developed (at least in simulation).

    • Perhaps they thought it was roughly half-past seven in the evening?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LWATCDR (28044)

      Actually if you read the link. I know what am I thinking read the link on slashdot.
      This is about creating high temp SMAs and using super computers to model them instead of melting metal testing repeat.
      It is actually kind of interesting in a very geeky science way.

    • by bobs666 (146801)
      Dad brought some of this type of stuff home when I was a little kid. That would make this as common place, at least for me, in the 1960.
  • by fridaynightsmoke (1589903) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @05:46AM (#33597572) Homepage
    Imagine a carriage that propels itself without the need for horses, fuelled by otherwise useless petroleum spirits. Like magic from some Jules Verne novel, such a carriage could carry a family for hundreds of miles at high speed without tiring, and could revolutionise transportation. Belive it or not, such carriages already exist....
    • by Haedrian (1676506) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @05:50AM (#33597586)

      Those are the work of the devil. They will stop chickens from laying eggs and the speed that people will move in them will suck the air out of their lungs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by operagost (62405)
        Make a guy with a flag walk in front of them and we're all set.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        My wife hates it when I suck the air out of her lungs.

    • by siddesu (698447)

      Forget the horseless carriages, imagine a robot made from some metal like that, robot that can remold his body into different sharp shapes.

      Imagine now that someone let this robot loose with only one goal - to terminate people.

      I already need to change my pants.

  • Imagine not wearing your feet down on the gravel, rock and teeth on the floor by putting some skin on them. Now imagine buying those without waging war. Now imagine there are still places in the world where this could be considered news, but lets stop right there. Morphing metals? Are we to expect a lesson on how bricks where invented eons ago?

    But not here, not on /. so please cut the crap, i'm not here to learn about something even teens understand. (ofcourse only if they exhibit any interest for that kno

    • by russotto (537200)

      Are we to expect a lesson on how bricks where invented eons ago?

      That WOULD be cool, because currently the invention of bricks is "lost to antiquity".

  • by lxs (131946) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @05:56AM (#33597600)

    Shape memory metals seem to come into the public consciousness every decade or so only to fade back into obscurity just as quickly.

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      Shape memory metals seem to come into the public consciousness every decade or so only to fade back into obscurity just as quickly.

      Then the memory is bent out of shape (just like the alloy) until it is not recognizable.

  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @05:58AM (#33597608)
    Amazing stuff! A couple more decades and we'll have finally moved away from valve-based electronics, too! This truly is an era of change.
  • I didn't know that the Terminator movies were written by this Harry Potter person.

    • by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @06:15AM (#33597670)

      I didn't know that the Terminator movies were written by this Harry Potter person.

      The terminator movies weren't written. They just put the robots on a stage and let them improvise.

      What! It works with Keanu Reeves.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        It works with Keanu Reeves.

        Having seen several Keanu films... no it doesn't.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Thanshin (1188877)

          It works with Keanu Reeves.

          Having seen several Keanu films... no it doesn't

          Were you Igor, your response to poor Dr.Frankenstein's "It lives! It liiiiiives!!" would probably be "Well yeah but the seams are kind of obvious. And what's with the bolts in the neck?"

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by operagost (62405)
          He was fine in a little movie called "The Matrix". Shame they never made a sequel.
  • you have been nothing but disappointment lately... dupes, shitty summaries, non-stories, Apple Apple Apple, and late to the punch more often than not. What happened to you, man? you used to be so cool...
  • Anyone read TFA? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mccalli (323026) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @06:00AM (#33597622) Homepage
    The point:

    "These shape memory materials have many applications," said Raymundo Arroyave, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Texas A&M. "Despite being heavily studied for the past twenty to thirty years, most of these materials are limited to work at relatively low temperatures."

    In other words, yes - the materials have existed for ages and people know that (anyone ever worn memory-flex glasses, for instance?), but there is now work underway to make the substances more useful in more difficult conditions - TFA mentions aerospace and automotive.

    Cheers,
    Ian
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lxs (131946)

      I remember the exact same claims back in to '70s and '90s. Apart from expensive muscles for tiny robots and your fancy glasses, nothing new has come of it in all this time.

      • Last time I junked a laptop the PCMCIA socket used SMA wire in the eject mechanism. That's nothing spectacular, which is the point: there are everyday uses for SMAs that you won't know about unless you look hard enough, like anti-scalding valves in hot water systems, surgical tools, automatic fire sprinklers and bra underwire (I wouldn't expect most Slashdotters to have practical experience with any of these, of course).

        • ... and bra underwire (I wouldn't expect most Slashdotters to have practical experience with any of these, of course).

          It's true, I prefer a wireless man-zier. Much more comfortable to wear while hunched over a keyboard all day.

        • by Anomalyst (742352)

          anti-scalding valves in hot water systems, surgical tools

          Hmmm, I am guessing that those valves might be why surgical tools are so expensive.

          • Not really, the SMA surgical tools use a different alloy composition that returns to shape at a much lower temperature, and they're usually only used for delicate work inside arteries and the like. But regular surgical tools are made with very precise alloys too, and precision has it's price.

        • by Tetsujin (103070)

          bra underwire (I wouldn't expect most Slashdotters to have practical experience with any of these, of course).

          Well, you've got to remember that your mom usually plans ahead, removing those pesky undergarments in advance of a visit...

      • by Fnkmaster (89084)

        Hey, those fancy glasses of mine have saved me hundreds of dollars over the last 6-7 years. Do you have any idea how often I used to fall asleep with my glasses on, only to wake up in the morning only to find a cracked pair of glasses frames? Now I can fall asleep on top of my glasses, bending them in half, and my nose will break long before my glasses.

    • by gl4ss (559668)
      "but there is now work underway to make the substances more useful in more difficult conditions"

      just like in 1950, 60,70,80,90,00.. basically we would like to see some new results and applications, we already know it's under research.
  • From TFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @06:11AM (#33597656) Journal

    “These shape memory materials have many applications,” said Raymundo Arroyave, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Texas A&M. “Despite being heavily studied for the past twenty to thirty years, most of these materials are limited to work at relatively low temperatures.” “This new class of high temperature shape memory alloys can be used in sensing and actuation at temperatures upwards of 200 Celsius, which is very important for the aerospace and the automotive industries,” Arroyave said.

    IOW what's new (or rather isn't actually yet) is "it works at higher temperatures". And that they are trying to find the new materials by simulating them with a supercomputer. Or so they hope, because "Computational materials science has a reputation for overselling and underperforming, according to Arroyave, but by all measures, the field is maturing by leaps and bounds."

  • I remember being able to buy pieces of this stuff from Edmund Scientific when I was a kid back in the 70's.
  • Wow. (Score:3, Informative)

    by imakemusic (1164993) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @06:53AM (#33597802)

    You mean like those bendable glasses (spectacles) are made of? The ones you can sit on and not break. The ones that have been around for long enough to be known by the layman.

  • by AC-x (735297) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @07:05AM (#33597840)

    Like magic out of a Harry Potter novel? Come on, It's clearly like T1000 technology out of Terminator 2!

  • Imagine a metal that 'remembers' its original, cold-forged shape, and can return to that shape when exposed to heat or a magnetic pulse. Like magic out of a Harry Potter novel, such a metal could contract on command, or swing back and forth like a pendulum.

    Harry Potter isn't exactly came to mind first [wikipedia.org] while reading the above.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wasn't that the kind of material witnesses reported finding at the Roswell crash site?

  • Imagine a car made out of this kind of metal. Someone ploughs into you, tow the car home, apply a flame and presto! off you go again.
  • Slow news day (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stooshie (993666) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @08:21AM (#33598214) Journal
    Wow, slow news day. All the way back to 1931 for this story!
  • so the T-1000 is not that far off now?

  • My Sleeper chamber worked??? 0_o
  • This is indeed old news.

    Also, I am posting because I have just done another one of these fat-fingered mis-moderations. It's surprsingly hard to un-do moderations. There's this thing where you have to wait a while after you hit "reply", and there's the lameness filter. There's also the karma hit from pointless posts, of course, but that at least has some deterrent value, and encourages more care in dishing out the mod points. One hopes.

  • It was also rediscovered in 1995 when a T-1000 was sent by Skynet back in time to kill John Connor, the future leader of the Human Resistance.
  • by dr_leviathan (653441) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @10:50AM (#33599666)

    I knew a machinist in the physics machine shop at my university who claimed memory metal was really hard to work with. It gums up the cutting tools and creates burrs like crazy. If you try to drill a hole in the stuff you have to be really careful or you'll break the bit.

  • by gmuslera (3436)
    Mighty Morphing Mutant Metals would be a nice title for the next japanese action series, without those pesky turtles and rangers.
  • Shape-memory alloys have been around for decades, but there are almost no applications for them. Yes, they change shape when heated, and return to the original shape when cooled. So do bimetallic strips, used in thermostats since 1880 or so. There are some toy engines [scientificsonline.com] based on this. Some flapping-wing devices have been built in toy size, but they're not strong enough to take off. There was some NASA enthusiasm for using this effect to control minor airfoils on aircraft, but that never went very far.

    As

  • Take a metal that has been widely used by the Navy for opening and closing valves and make it public property. Then have industry make wires for ladies bras and eye glass frames and bury the potential of the material under a dark rock in a dark stream somewhere. The idea that Nitinol could be used to make car doors and fenders that were self healing or a connecting rod that would turn a crank without a piston being needed and the truth just might become apparent. In essence Nitinol hides in plain sig

  • Manufacture a car, then crush it into a small cube, ship it and then put it 30 seconds in a giant oven to restore it back into its car form.

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