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Characteristics & Properties of Nitinol
Nitinol has the unique ability to adapt to particular strains and is compatible to the human body. Therefore, it is a great choice for many medical applications. Nitinol displays a cubic crystal structure, known as austenite (also called the parent phase). It spontaneously becomes martensite at lower temperatures. The temperature at where austenite turns to martensite, also known as the transition temp, is commonly called the Ms temperature. This is the temperature at its full formation. These two features of Nitinol’s structural structure — shape-memory and superelasticity — allow it to show a reversible reaction to applied stress. This is directly caused by the phase change between the martensitic and austenitic phases.
These two aspects are critical to Nitinol’s properties. The transition is “reversible”, which means that heating above transition temperature will return the crystal structure back to the simpler austenite. The second important point is that two-way conversion occurs instantly.
Martensite crystals have the unique ability to undergo finite atomic bond breaking without causing any damage. This type of deformation is called twins and involves the rearrangement of atomic plans without causing permanent damage. This can withstand around 6-8% of strain.
Martensite can be converted to austenite using heating. The original structure of the austenite structure will still be intact, regardless of how deformed the martensite phase may have been. This is why the term “shape memories” refers to how the high-temperature austenite phases are “remembered”, even though they deform severely at lower temperatures.
The Nitinol medical devices, such as a Stent, can be made at the body temperature, deformed at another temperature, folded smaller, and then inserted into an artery. Once it is at normal temperature, it will return to its original size. The device will also fully recover after being bent to extremely high strain rates (upto 7%).
Super-elastic effect of Nitinol Wire
This “hyperelasticity” allows you to use a Nitinol-wire device that has been bent, shaped or placed in your body. The tube can accommodate small grasping or biopsy tools that are smaller than those made from standard alloys. Nitinol is a lightweight alloy with unique properties that makes it ideal for biomedical applications. This includes heart valve tools, stents and nails, bone anchors, diaphragm defects devices and many other implants.
But heat-treating Nitinol to achieve the desired transition temperature is delicate. Temperature and age control the precipitation process of various Ni-rich phases. This is done to regulate the nickel content within the lattice. The nickel matrix is depleted, and aging increases the temperature transition. It is crucial to combine heat treatment with cold work in order to control the properties and alloy Nitinol.
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