What are the Characteristics of Nitinol?

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Nitinol is an alloy of nickel and titanium that has about half the nickel. It was first discovered in the 1960s. However, Nitinol wouldn’t be available until decades later due to manufacturing difficulties and difficulty in processing. Many of Nitinol’s applications have actually been discovered since the mid-1990s. Its shape memory and superelasticity properties are what made it useful in many different areas. Nitinol has shape memory, which means it can be transformed into another form by heating above the transition temperature.

Property and Characteristics for Nitinol
Nitinol has the unique ability to adapt and work with specific strains. This makes it a versatile drug that has many uses in medicine. Nitinol displays a cubic crystal structure, known as austenite. This is also the parent phase. Lower temperatures cause it to spontaneously change into martensite which is a “monoclinic”, more complicated crystal structure. The temperature at that austenite transforms into martensite is commonly known as the “transition temperature”. More precisely, martensite forms at the Ms temperature. And the Mf temperature is where it is completely formed. Because of these two features of Nitinol’s structure — superelasticity and shape memory — Nitinol can exhibit a reversible effect to applied stress. This is due to phase transition between martensitic and austenitic phases in the crystal.

These two aspects are critical to Nitinol’s properties. One is the fact that the transition can be reversed. This means that heating at temperatures above the transition temperature could restore the crystal structure back to its simpler form. It is also important to note that two-way conversion occurs instantly.

Martensite crystals have the rare ability to undergo finite atomic bond breaking without causing any damage. This is known as twins. It involves the rearrangement and deformation of atomic planes that does not cause permanent deformation. In this manner, it can resist approximately 6-8% of strain.

Martensite can be converted into austenite using heating. The original structure of the austenite phase will remain intact regardless of how it has deformed. This is why the term “shape memories” means that even though austenite deforms at higher temperatures, it retains its original shape.

Nitinol’s medical devices, like a Stent, can be created at body temperature. Once it has been deformed, or folded at another temperature, the device is inserted into an arterial, where it will return to its normal temperature. This phase change allows the device’s ability to completely recover from high strain (up to 7%) after being bent.

Nitinol Wire
This allows for the use of Nitinol-wire devices which have been bent or formed to be used in the body. The tube can accommodate small grasping or biopsy tools that are smaller than those made from standard alloys. Nitinol’s unique weight reduction makes it attractive for biomedical purposes, including heart valve instruments, nail anchors, diaphragm defect device devices and other implants.

But heat treating Nitinol to adjust the temperature is delicate. The temperature and age control precipitation of Ni-rich phases. These are used to regulate the nickel content within the lattice. By depleting the nickel-rich matrix, aging increases the temperature transition. It is crucial to combine heat treatment with cold working in order to control Nitinol alloy properties.

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