Dentists get to use some pretty cool science. As an orthodontic practice, one of the most amazing things Hi 5 gets to use is called Nitinol.
Nitinol is an alloy. That means we’ve taken multiple different metals and blended them together into something new. Bronze is an alloy of copper mixed with tin. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc.
In the same way, Nitinol is a mixture of Nickel and Titanium. The first part of the word is even named after these elements—Ni and Ti.
But what makes this alloy so special? And why is it cool enough that we’re over here geeking out about it? We’ve got two amazing reasons for you: Shape Memory and Superelasticity.
Shape memory is fascinating. Here’s how it works. Nitinol wire can be programmed into a particular shape. Once this happens, it can be bent, twisted, and smashed. It looks just like a normal tangle of normal wire.
Once you heat it to the correct temperature, it remembers that original programming and springs right back into the shape it started, no matter how much you changed it.
We know, right! Until you see it for yourself, it sounds a little too sci-fi to be real, but it is. It’s real enough to use in your own orthodontic equipment.
Have you ever seen those glasses that can be bent every which way, and never lose their shape? Superelasticity makes that possible.
This is a step beyond even shape memory. Nitinol alloys can be designed with amazing superelasticity. That’s what makes them great for medical stents, improved robotics, and wheels for space rovers. We can’t have tire punctures while cruising 200 million km away, after all!
This stuff is not only amazing. It’s useful in so many fields. If nitinol can do all that, just imagine how well it will work on your teeth! Check out some videos to see for yourself how cool it is.