July 15, 2009

Case School of Engineering to Build Nitinol Research and Education Specialty

With Ohio Third Frontier Wright Projects Program's Nitinol Commercialization Accelerator

Scientists have created quirky materials like Nitinol that can change its shape under hot and cold temperatures and then remember its original form when it returns to its beginning temperature. Nitinol, which is primarily nickel and titanium, is known as a shape memory alloy.

Since discovery in 1962, engineers have been finding an increasing number of new and significant applications for shape memory alloys in fields as different as medicine and aerospace.

To achieve consistency in the way Nitinol works and the ability to reproduce the material from the alloy, researchers need to understand the sophisticated metallurgical processing and characterization.

The Case School of Engineering will do that with $1.2 million to purchase a range of new instruments to add to their research tools. The instruments will enable them to examine the effects of changes in Nitinol compositions on performance for a range of temperatures, stresses and desired shape variations.

These new tools for the engineering school are supported by funding the Nitinol Commercialization Accelerator—a $3-million local collaboration—funded by the Ohio Third Frontier Wright Projects Program.

Case is a under Case is a member of a Nitinol group led by the Cleveland Clinic and also includes NASA Glenn Research Center, the University of Toledo, and Norman Noble, Inc., an industrial leader in designing and fabrication of Nitinol-based medical devices.

The collaboration between academic, health and industry partners is designed to build an economic powerhouse in development and research related to products improved by the use of Nitinol.

John J. Lewandowski, the Leonard Case Jr. Professor of Engineering; James D. McGuffin-Cawley, the Arthur S. Holden Professor and chair of material sciences and engineering department; and David Schwam, Research Associate Professor, are leading the Case team in the collaboration. They will be purchasing and installing the new instruments over the next year for use in conducting research intending to impact this area of economic development.

"We will be able to learn something about the properties of Nitinol along every stage of its manufacture," said Lewandowski.

According to Lewandowski, Nitinol is being used in a wide range of products, from orthodontic braces that require fewer adjustments to stents designed to open restricted and clogged arteries. The stents can be collapsed to a small size enabling movement through blood vessels and then return to their original expanded shape at body temperature to open arteries for increased blood flow.

Wright Center funding also will support the establishment of new courses around Nitinol production and properties as a way to build a future workforce of researchers and students for the Nitinol initiative.

Over the next three years, the team members will fabricate and test different Nitinol compositions for potential use in new products that will be developed and fabricated in the northeast Ohio area.

According to Lewandowski, this will fuel the economy with new jobs, products, revenues and capital investments.

What's in the Tool Box:
  • Vacuum Arc Melter is an instrument to melt different alloy compositions of Nitinol under high vacuum conditions in order to prevent contamination from oxygen and other materials.
  • A spectrometer that will provide information about the chemical composition resulting after processing.
  • Vacuum Melt Spinner allows the researchers to turn an ingot of Nitinol into thin ribbons similar to Christmas tinsel to analyze how different compositions of Nitinol change its properties.
  • High Temperature Differential Scanning Calorimeter, allows testing a thin piece of Nitinol at different temperatures in order to determine changes to the microstructure that induce the shape memory effect.
  • Vacuum Heat Treatment System is a furnace with a vacuum chamber to prevent contamination during heat treatment at elevated temperatures.
  • Laboratory Extrusion Press is an instrument that shapes heated materials by pushing them through a die to create a specific cross-section like a wire or tube.
  • Flex Fatigue Tester enables cyclic testing under bending and pulling conditions.
  • High Cycle Fatigue Wire Tester determines the materials breaking point under cyclic/spinning conditions.

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, July 15, 2009 01:28 PM | News Topics: Case School of Engineering, Faculty, Grants, Research, features, news

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