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Nitinol Fundamentals

Nitinol is a nickel-titanium alloy distinguished from other materials by its shape memory and superelastic characteristics. Read more about the physical properties of nitinol.

Nitinol is a trade name taken from the alloys composing it—nickel (Ni) and titanium (Ti)—and the scientific group that discovered it—the Naval Ordnance Laboratory (NOL). A team from the NOL discovered the alloy while searching for materials that could be used in tools for dismantling magnetic mines.

In an article published by Time in 1968, discoverer William Buehler discussed how he thought nitinol might be used to prefabricate tools used in deep water or space. At the time, Goodyear Aerospace Corp. had envisioned deforming a nitinol satellite antenna and placing it into a small rocket payload, then restoring it to its original shape upon deployment by using heat.

Beyond these early predictions, nitinol has proved to be widely useful in the medical device arena. Engineers have used it for devices that maintain blood flow within an artery, implants that restore function to a failing heart valve and retrieval devices that remove life threatening blood clots from deep within the brain.

You can learn more about the medical applications of nitinol in our Memry white papers: Issues in the Further Development of Nitinol Properties and Processing for Medical Device Applications (PDF) and Nitinol Medical Device Design Considerations (PDF).

Nitinol has also been useful in industrial applications, such as couplings, actuators, sealing high-pressure fuel passages, and in commercial applications such as cellphone antennae and eyeglass frames. Read more in our white paper, Industrial Applications for Shape Memory Alloys (PDF)

Read more about nitinol in these technical overviews: