Metallurgy: The Alloy That Remembers

Like many scientists before him, Metallurgist William Buehler was blessed with serendipity, the gift of finding something valuable without actually looking for it. Assigned by the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Maryland to find a nonmagnetic and noncorroding material for tools that could be safely used in dismantling magnetic mines, he finally hit upon 55-Nitinol, a nickel-titanium alloy. During further experiments, however, he discovered that the alloy also had a strange and mysterious quality in the realm of science fiction: It had a "memory."

During laboratory tests, Buehler and Physicist Frederick Wang reported...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!