In a previous disclosure, the use of 60-NiTiNOL, an ordered intermetallic compound composed of 60 weight percent nickel and 40 weight percent titanium, was investigated as a material for advanced aerospace bearings due to its unique combination of physical properties. Lessons learned during the development of applications for this material have led to the discovery that, with the addition of a ternary element, the resulting material can be thermally processed at a lower temperature to attain the same desirable hardness level as the original material. Processing at a lower temperature is beneficial, not only because it reduces processing costs from energy consumption, but because it also significantly reduces the possibility of quench cracking and thermal distortion, which have been problematic with the original material. A family of ternary substitutions has been identified, including Hf and Zr in various atomic percentages with varying concentrations of Ni and Ti.

The Modified NiTiNOL being machined in a lathe.
In the present innovation, a ternary intermetallic compound consisting of 57.6 weight percent Ni, 39.2 weight percent Ti, and 3.2 weight percent Hf (54Ni-45Ti-1Hf atomic percent) was prepared by casting. In this material, Hf substitutes for some of the Ti atoms in the material. In an alternate embodiment of the innovation, Zr, which is close in chemical behavior to Hf, is used as the substitutional element. With either substitution, the solvus temperature of the material is reduced, and lower temperatures can be used to obtain the necessary hardness values.

The advantages of

this innovation include the ability to solution- treat the material at a lower temperature and still achieve the required hardness for bearings (at least 50 Rockwell C) and superelastic behavior with recoverable strains greater than 2%. Most structural alloys will not return to their original shape after being deformed as little as 0.2% (a tenth of that possible with superelastic materials like 60 NiTiNOL). Because lower temperatures can be used in the heat treatment process, less energy will be consumed, and there will be less dimensional distortion and quench cracking. This results in fewer scrap parts, less material waste from large amounts of material removal, and fewer machining steps to rework parts that are out of specification.

This material has a combination of properties that have been previously unobtainable. The material has a Young’s modulus of approximately 95 GPa (about half that of conventional steels), moderate density (10 to 15% lower than conventional steels), excellent corrosion resistance, and high hardness (58 to 62 HRC). These properties make this material uniquely suited for advanced bearings.

This work was done by Malcolm Stanford, Ronald Noebe, Christopher Dellacorte, Glen Bigelow, and Fransua Thomas of Glenn Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to

NASA Glenn Research Center
Innovative Partnerships Office
Attn: Steven Fedor
Mail Stop 4–8
21000 Brookpark Road
Ohio 44135.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the August, 2013 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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