GENERAL Motors will use a smart-material actuator on its 2014 Corvette to open an air vent in the boot to allow easier closure of the lid by preventing an airlock. This is achieved by passing an electrical current through an alloy wire that contracts and opens the vent by operating a lever. This actuator not only saves 0,5 kg on a motorised unit, but also costs less.
There are several other areas in which this technology can be employed because a modern vehicle has about 200 actuators. Shape-memory alloys, typically made of copper-aluminium-nickel or nickel-titanium, are smart materials that can change their shape, strength or stiffness when activated by heat, a magnetic field or electrical current. A shape-memory alloy remembers its original shape and returns to it when deactivated. Durability still needs to be proven, but we welcome any weight-saving technologies.