- R&D 100 Awards
Sometimes referred to as “smart metals,” "Training" Process for Shape Memory Alloys (SMAs) are known for their unique ability to change shape, and then recall their original shape through mechanical or thermal loading. Conventional SMAs are occasionally used as an alternative to actuators and switches, but they have been extremely limited in their applications because “training” SMAs (or teaching them to return to their original shape) is incredibly time-consuming and expensive. By pioneering a unique mechanical cycling process that allows these SMAs to be trained in just 60 seconds rather than three weeks (30,000 times faster than before), NASA has reduced the manufacturing cost by more than 95 percent, allowing the potential for this extraordinary technology to take its rightful place at the forefront of innovation in product design and development. This innovative process opens the door to a number of new applications for which SMAs have the potential to dramatically cut costs, increase efficiency, and have positive environmental impacts.