Nonhysteretic Superelasticity of Shape Memory Alloys at the Nanoscale

Z Zhang and XD Ding and J Sun and T Suzuki and T Lookman and K Otsuka and XB Ren, PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 111, 145701 (2013).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.111.145701

We perform molecular dynamics simulations to show that shape memory alloy nanoparticles below the critical size not only demonstrate superelasticity but also exhibit features such as absence of hysteresis, continuous nonlinear elastic distortion, and high blocking force. Atomic level investigations show that this nonhysteretic superelasticity results from a continuous transformation from the parent phase to martensite under external stress. This aspect of shape memory alloys is attributed to a surface effect; i.e., the surface locally retards the formation of martensite and then induces a critical-end-point-like behavior when the system is below the critical size. Our work potentially broadens the application of shape memory alloys to the nanoscale. It also suggests a method to achieve nonhysteretic superelasticity in conventional bulk shape memory alloys.

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