Researchers at Heriot-Watt University are using functionally graded Laser Induced Forward Transfer to develop functionally graded shape memory alloys that they want to modify at different points in the material so it can change its shape in response to different temperatures at various points. Currently, shape memory alloys can only change from one shape to another, or in response to one particular temperature change, but this new development would allow much more complex and controllable micro-robots to be built to perform very precise tissue incision and sensing for medical procedures like biopsies.
“More complex micro-robots possible with new shape memory alloys“
Professor Duncan Hand said: “So you have a ribbon of transparent polymer with these thin metal films in parallel on it, and then like an old-fashioned typewriter ribbon you transfer bits of this ribbon over on to the [receiver] substrate. So you might put down three layers of titanium, four layers of nickel and a layer of copper. So some parts of the device might be a shape memory alloy, some parts will not have that effect, and some will have a shape memory alloy that operates at a different temperature.”