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What Smart Metal!

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    Cornell Center for Materials Research

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What Smart Metal!

In this activity (pages 3-4), learners investigate the properties of smart materials, which are materials that respond to things that happen around them. This activity explores the properties of one smart material (Nitinol) by shaping and heating it. What makes Nitinol so smart? Find out! Safety note: Young learners should have adult supervision. Nitinol can get very hot when using electricity. Don’t touch the wire as it is heating. Hold the alligator clips by the insulated covers. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • Piece of Nitinol wire
  • Hairdryer
  • Bowl
  • Paper clip or other wire (optional)
  • 6 volt battery
  • 2 leads with alligator clips on both ends


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Metallurgy and Materials Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Bonding
    • States of Matter
      • Solids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Jordan, Catherine


  • All Rights Reserved, Cornell Center for Materials Research Educational Programs, ©2012

Funding Source:

  • NSF Grant DMR, 1120296


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