By Tan Ee Lyn
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Researchers in Japan have developed a superelastic alloy, which can spring back to its original form in extreme temperatures, they said in a report on Friday, adding that they hope it may be used in buildings to absorb shocks from earthquakes.
The experts, who wrote about their invention in the journal Science, added a small amount of nickel to an iron-based alloy, and found that the new material can recover its original shape at any temperature from -196 to 240 degrees Celsius.
Lead author Toshihiro Omori at the Department of Materials Science, Graduate School of Engineering in Tohoku University, said this new material was far more elastic than other superelastic alloys, which cannot revert to their original form outside the -20 to 80 degrees Celsius range.
"Our ferrous alloy has temperature insensitivity by one order of magnitude. This property is very important because materials are subject to change in temperature in most cases," Omori wrote in an email in response to questions from Reuters.
"Another advantage is its low cost. The raw material is cheap ... resulting in the potential for large scale applications," Omori wrote.
The material may be used in environments that are constantly exposed to extreme temperatures, such as joints and controls in cars, planes and spacecraft, Omori and his colleagues said.
It may also help buildings cushion stress and violent movement in earthquakes, the materials science experts added.
MATERIALS SCIENCE RESEARCH TAKES OFF IN ASIA
Research in materials science has taken off in the past 30 years, led by Asia and especially China, according to findings of a study released this week by Thomson Reuters.
The study found that around 1.1 million papers involving materials science have been published annually in recent years.
Much of Asia's sharp rise in materials science research comes from China, which published more than 55,000 papers over the last 5 years, up from fewer than 50 papers in 1981.
By comparison, the United States published 38,189 papers over the same period but since the early 1980s, its world share in this field has fallen by nearly half. A similar decline was also seen in the European Union.