PHILIPPE PLAILLY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PHILIPPE PLAILLY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Memory metal. Close-up view of a wire of memory metal being 'educated' by being bent around a spindle. Memory metals are alloys of nickel, titanium & aluminium or copper. Once manufactured in a certain shape the metal may be deformed with little effort, but will regain its shape upon gentle heating. The heat makes the metal plastic, allowing it to return to the structural arrangement in which it was made (its minimum energy configuration). Repeated bending of the metal, each time to the same position, alters the original structure permanently, and 'educates' it to a new shape.
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