SHAPE MEMORY ALLOY: Memory Metal Allows Future Cars to Repair Themselves
Cars are great to own and drive and even admire, but it is clear on so many levels that they are not globally sustainable. Our roads are already over-crowded, accidents happen daily, lives are lost, and they fart out enough carbon monoxide to choke a large Redwood plantation.
New cars are being pumped out the assembly line at an alarming rate. There are currently over 800 million cars and light trucks on the roads today, consuming over 260 billion gallons of petrol and diesel every year.
Coupled with the fuel crisis are motor vehicle accidents. If you are not killed or severely injured in a car accident, you are at least left with a hefty bill to pay. I was involved in quite a bad car accident earlier this year. It took six months to get my car back from the panel beaters. The only injuries sustained were to my patience and wallet.
Transport should be so much higher on the technological agenda and it’s high time that vehicle-related problems were met. What’s more is that the technology for safer and more environment-friendly transport is already available; it just needs to be put into proper use.
Shape Memory Alloy
Shape memory alloy is at the forefront of future transport. This cheaply produced metal, also known as smart metal, memory metal, muscle wire and Nitinol, is able to regain its original shape when heated. This can be demonstrated with a memory alloy spring. The object is deformed and disfigured beyond recognition and springs back to its original shape when heated. Here’s a video demonstrating this process:
Shape Memory Alloy in Action!
To put it very simply, memory materials are created at a specific temperature and then held in place until cooled. Applying any heat source after the object is disfigured will return it to its original shape.
Shape memory alloy is already being used in medical applications, such as optometry and dentistry, as well as aerospace; but why not use it more vigorously in vehicle production? Serious research advances in the field of memory materials have been ongoing since the 1960s. This lightweight, solid-state material is the perfect alternative to conventional materials used to manufacture cars.
Shape Memory Alloy & Cars in the Future
Safety and fuel-efficiency are the two major factors when it comes to considering cars of the future. To be more fuel-efficient, cars need to be more aerodynamic and lightweight on top of having better, eco-friendlier engines. To achieve this, more consideration needs to be given to vehicle shape and the material used to make cars.
Many cars today might seem more plastic than metal — the cheaper ones certainly feel that way. The good news is that there are also memory plastics and textiles, which behave very similarly to memory metals. Future vehicles would be made from a combination of these memory materials — eliminating the need to waste time and resources at the panel beater.
This is, of course, if accidents were even to occur in the future. Social engineer and industrial designer, Jacque Fresco, believes that there is no reason for accidents to happen at all in the future.
But as an extra precaution, Fresco explains how the front end of future cars would be equipped with radar or sonar, or other sensory devices. These would be able to detect the distance between other vehicles and maintain that separation automatically.
Like the human body, cars of the future could even have memory systems of their entire configuration built in — allowing them to regenerate automatically if entire parts were lost. “The technology of the future will enable our automotive vehicles to repair and regenerate damaged areas automatically,” says Fresco.
I don’t think I can ever look at my current car the same way again.
- This article is the seventh in a series of Future by Design concepts. The others are available under Quite Interesting – A Resource-Based Economy