Scientists in Japan working to stretch the limits of super-elastic materials have made a significant breakthrough, demonstrating a new iron-based alloy that endures extremely high and low temperatures. With this ability to be deformed and regain its original shape in all kinds of conditions, the team hopes its new super-elastic metal can find uses in more earthquake-resistant buildings, and possibly even outer space.
Superelastic alloys (SEAs) are a class of materials with supreme elasticity that enables them to be deformed and return to their original shape. Their unique properties have seen these durable materials come to be used in everything from glasses and aprons, to medical and dental applications, but they do have their limitations in their current form.
The amount of mechanical force these materials can withstand is influenced by the ambient temperature, with the superelastic alloys used today able to function in temperatures ranging from -20 °C to 80 °C (-4 °F to 173 °F). Made from materials like titanium and nickel, these alloys are also costly, meaning they are mostly used in the form of thin wires and tubes.