In what sounds like news straight from a Marvel comic book, materials scientists have created a shape-shifting metal alloy that can handle being blasted with heat and then cooled thousands of times. Afterward, the metal reverts to its original state.
Sudsy Tech Sexier Than You Know
Scientists have known about a special form of metals with a crystalline structure called martensite for a while now. These martensitic metals are made by combining several metals into an alloy that can be crumpled or bent and still return to a previous shape. Sounds magical, right? The drawback is that they tend to be like a wind-up toy with a dying battery. After a bit of deformation, they can degrade to the point of uselessness.
A team from the University of Minnesota's Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics department might have toughened the metal up. They've created a new martensitic metal alloy using specific proportions of zinc, gold and copper - and their version degrades very little after more than 16,000 thermal cycles, according to a letter they published in the journal Nature (abstract).