September 25, 2009

Less costly memory foam developed

A new shape-shifting memory foam could have widespread use in car engines, inkjet printers and surgical-positioning tools, U.S. scientists said.

The foam developed by researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois and Boise State University in Idaho costs less to produce than similar foams now on the market, Northwestern said in a release Thursday.

The new foam is based on a nickel-manganese-gallium alloy that changes shape when exposed to a magnetic field, the researchers, Northwestern's David Dunand and Boise State's Peter Mullner, said.

This was such a huge improvement that the foam was tested over and over again to make sure that no experimental mistakes were made, Mullner said. Our new results may pave the way for magnetic shape-memory alloys for use in research labs and commercial applications.

The foam potentially could be used in sonar devices, magneto-mechanical sensors and precision actuators in cars, printers and surgical positioning tools, Mullner said. Northwestern and Boise State are seeking a patent jointly.