Five years ago, Professor Mirko Gojic, a researcher at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, wondered what his small team of researchers could do to lower the price of 'smart metals': a type of high-tech materials that can remember their original cold-forged shape, returning the pre-deformed shape by heating a property that makes them crucial in a series of industries. The idea was there, but problems quickly aroused from lack of money and key equipment. Thanks to the support of EUREKA, the product is now almost finalised and could be rolled out within the next two years. Gojic thinks that this international research project he led could soon turn into commercial production of a cheaper alloy for use in aerospace engineering or electronics.
Shape memory alloys can be produced to many shapes and sizes for various uses. Although not as strong as steel, they are much more elastic and their properties allow them to adopt the needed shape when exposed to high temperatures. They are used in smart phones, robotics and for medical purposes. For example, nickel-titanium alloy balloons that expand and adapt to the shape of a blood vessel when exposed to body temperatures are used in stent grafts and surgery.
A team effort
One of the key problems with manufacturing such materials is their high price. Gojic and his team embarked on producing a new, cheaper alloy, based on copper, whereas the most-used alloy is built on a half-half mix of titanium and nickel, known under its trade name Nitinol. 'It is also the most expensive alloy, so there is a lot of effort going into finding an economically viable alternative', says Gojic. The research project called RSSMA, for Rapidly Solidified Shape Memory Alloys, lasted three years.
"We are not the only ones to put our efforts into research on copper alloys, we contributed to the extent of the possibilities offered by our infrastructure and benefited greatly from collaborations with interna
|Contact: Piotr Pogorzelski|