SMA, shape memory alloys, TEM, Transmission Electron Microscopy


In NiTi, a reversible thermoelastic martensitic transformation can be induced by temperature or stress between a cubic (B2) austenite phase and a monoclinic (B19') martensite phase. Ni-rich binary compositions are cubic at room temperature (requiring stress or cooling to transform to the monoclinic phase), while Ti-rich binary compositions are monoclinic at room temperature (requiring heating to transform to the cubic phase). The stress induced transformation results in the superelastic effect, while the thermally induced transformation is associated with strain recovery that results in the shape memory effect. Ternary elemental additions such as Fe can additionally introduce an intermediate rhombohedral (R) phase between the cubic and monoclinic phase transformation. This work was initiated with the broad objective of connecting the macroscopic behavior in shape memory alloys with microstructural observations from transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Specifically, the goals were to examine (i) the effect of mechanical cycling and plastic deformation in superelastic NiTi; (ii) the effect of thermal cycling during loading in shape memory NiTi; (iii) the distribution of twins in martensitic NiTi-TiC composites; and (iv) the R-phase in NiTiFe. Both in situ and ex situ lift out focused ion beam (FIB) and electropolishing techniques were employed to fabricate shape memory alloy samples for TEM characterization. The Ni rich NiTi samples were fully austenitic in the undeformed state. The introduction of plastic deformation (8% and 14% in the samples investigated) resulted in the stabilization of martensite in the unloaded state. An interlaying morphology of the austenite and martensite was observed and the martensite needles tended to orient themselves in preferred orientations. The aforementioned observations were more noticeable in mechanically cycled samples. The observed dislocations in mechanically cycled samples appear to be shielded from the external applied stress via mismatch accommodation since they are not associated with unrecoverable strain after a load-unload cycle. On application of stress, the austenite transforms to martensite and is expected to accommodate the stress and strain mismatch through preferential transformation, variant selection, reorientation and coalescence. The stabilized martensite (i.e., martensite that exists in the unloaded state) is expected to accommodate the mismatch through variant reorientation and coalescence. On thermally cycling a martensitic NiTi sample under load through the phase transformation, significant variant coalescence, variant reorientation and preferred variant selection was observed. This was attributed to the internal stresses generated as a result of the thermal cycling. A martensitic NiTi-TiC composite was also characterized and the interface between the matrix and the inclusion was free of twins while significant twins were observed at a distance away from the matrix-inclusion interface. Incorporating a cold stage, diffraction patterns from NiTiFe samples were obtained at temperatures as low as -160ºC. Overall, this work provided insight in to deformation phenomena in shape memory materials that have implications for engineering applications (e.g., cyclic performance of actuators, engineering life of superelastic components, stiffer shape memory composites and low-hysteresis R-phase based actuators). This work was supported in part by an NSF CAREER award (DMR 0239512).


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Graduation Date





Vaidyanathan, Rajan


Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (M.S.M.E.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Materials Science and Engineering








Release Date

January 2007

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)