Bend or twist an ordinary pair of wire-frame eyeglasses too much, and they will never go back to their original shape. But a pair made from shape-memory wire springs right back, over and over again. Shape-memory materials are now found everywhere, from outer space to the human body, where they are being used for surgical stents and to repair broken bones. Besides the super elasticity that allows metal frames to spring back, shape-memory materials have the ability to “remember” a shape and return to it when stimulated—the “shape-memory effect.” New understanding of the mechanisms driving shape memory—and the development of new kinds of shape-memory materials—is now opening the door to a new class of smart and self-actuating devices.
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