Granular Shape Memory Ceramics

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Virginia Tech

Shape memory ceramics (SMCs) are burgeoning functional materials based on zirconia with a reversible, stress-inducible martensitic phase transformation. Compared to metallic shape memory alloys, SMCs have broader operating temperatures, higher critical stresses, and larger mechanical hysteresis loops. These advantages make SMCs attractive for high-output actuation and sensing in extreme environments or energy dissipation applications; however, the key phase transformation generates large stresses and strains that accumulate at grain boundaries and result in fracture of monolithic SMCs. This means that material forms with decreased mechanical constraint are necessary. Transformation without fracture has been previously demonstrated with SMC micropillars and individual microparticles, but these material forms lack useful applications. By utilizing easily scalable granular packings of discrete free particles, the transformation can be triggered in bulk without fracture in much the same way. The granular packing material form introduces significant complexity as the internal stress distributions responsible for the phase transformation are highly heterogeneous on the macro-, meso-, and micro-scales. Moreover, the unconstrained phase transformation behaves differently than the constrained transformation, which is more studied in zirconia. The interactions of these various factors are explored from a fundamental perspective in this work, notably including (1) a unique 'continuous mode' of both forward and reverse transformation in granular packings, (2) the dependence of transformation behavior on macro-, meso-, and microstructure, and (3) the evolution of the granular packings' structure and energy dissipation capacity over 10,000 loading cycles. Diverse experimental techniques are employed, ranging from mechanical testing and calorimetry to in situ neutron diffraction, to support theory based on the martensitic phase transformation in zirconia, the shape memory and superelastic effects, and granular material physics.

shape memory ceramics, granular materials, phase transformation, in situ neutron diffraction