Chevrolet Debuts Lightweight Smart Material on 2014 Corvette [Video]
The C7 Corvette is 99 pounds lighter that its predecessor, and, according to Chevy, this is also thanks to a groundbreaking GM-developed lightweight technology that seconds the all-new aluminum chassis. In short, Chevy used a shape memory alloy wire to replace the heavier motorized actuator used for opening and closing the hatch vent that releases air from the trunk.
"Shape memory alloys – typically made of copper-aluminum-nickel or nickel-titanium – are smart materials that can change their shape, strength, and/or stiffness when activated by heat, stress, a magnetic field or electrical voltage. Shape memory alloys 'remember' their original shape and return to it when de-activated.
When activated, the wire contracts and moves a lever arm to open the vent, allowing the trunk lid to close. Once the trunk lid is closed, the electrical current switches off, allowing the wire to cool and return to its normal shape, which closes the vent to maintain cabin temperature," explained GM in a press release.
GM claims these so-called "smart materials" that debuted on the 2014 Corvette are to be used further on their vehicles, in order to eventually replace the about 200 motorized movable parts available on the typical car.
“The shape memory alloy used on the new Corvette represents nearly five years of research and development work on smart materials for which GM has earned 247 patents,” said Paul Alexander, GM smart materials and structures researcher. “And it is just the beginning. We have many more smart material applications in the pipeline that will bring even more improvements to our vehicles going forward.”