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Jim Mateja Chicago Tribune

Nitinol. Remember the name. Someday you’ll be swearing by it, while body shops are swearing at it. Nitinol is a nickel-titanium alloy used to produce stents to keep veins and arteries open. General Motors researchers are working with it, as well as polymers, to create what they call shape-memory materials for cars.

“The properties in shape-memory alloys [metals] and polymers [plastics] have the potential to be game changers, eventually leading to vehicles that can self-heal in the event of damage or be designed to change color or appearance,” said Alan Taub, executive director of Research and Development for GM.

“We’d probably do it with alloys first before polymers and probably on bumpers first before body panels, but there is nothing in physics that rules it out or stops it,” Taub said, though noting that such dent healing isn’t ready for prime time yet.
Heat, stress, magnetic field or electrical voltage is all it takes to change shape-memory materials. Imagine body shops where the workers wield hair dryers rather than hammers and mallets. “You grab a hair dryer, run it over the dent, the dent disappears and the door goes back to its original shape.” Fixing body panels would be an extreme use of the materials, but it’s interesting to think about, Taub said.
 

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I would LOVE that. I ranted and raved for hours when two grocery carts dinged my Volvo at the grocery store. Actually, I think my family would love it more!!
 
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