Thermomechanical response of laser processed nickel-titanium shape memory alloy
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The exciting thermomechanical properties of nickel-titanium shape memory alloys have sparked significant research efforts seeking to exploit their exotic capabilities. Until recently, the performance capabilities of nickel-titanium devices have been inhibited by the retention of only one thermomechanical characteristic. However, laser processing technology promises to deliver enhanced material offerings which are capable of multiple functional responses. Presented in this thesis, is an investigation of the effects of laser processing on the thermomechanical behaviour of nickel-titanium shape memory alloys. In the context of this work, laser processing refers to removal of alloy constituents, as in the case of laser ablation, or alternatively, addition of elements through laser alloying. The effects of laser ablation on the composition, crystallography and phase transformation temperatures of a nickel-titanium strip have been studied. Application of laser energy was shown to ablate nickel constituents, induce an austenite-martensite phase change and cause an increase in phase transformation onset temperatures, which correlated well with reported findings. Laser processing of a nickel-titanium wire was shown to locally embed an additional thermomechanical response which manifested as unique shape memory and pseudoelastic properties. Localized alloying of ternary species via laser processing of nickel-titanium strip was investigated. Synthesis of a ternary shape memory intermetallic within the laser processing region was achieved through melting of copper foils. Results from thermoanalytical testing indicated that the ternary compound possessed a higher phase transformation temperature and reduced transformation hysteresis in comparison to the reference alloy. Indentation testing was used to demonstrate the augmented thermomechanical characteristics of the laser processed shape memory alloy. In order to demonstrate the enhanced functionality of laser processed nickel-titanium shape memory alloys, a self-positioning nickel-titanium microgripper was fabricated. The microgripper was designed to actuate through four different positions, corresponding to activation of three embedded shape memory characteristics. Thermoanalytical and tensile testing instrumentations were used to characterize the thermomechanical performance of the laser processed nickel-titanium microgripper. Results indicated that each of the laser processed microgripper components possessed unique mechanical and shape memory recovery properties.