Heat-activated “smart material” debuts in 2014 Corvette
By Dave LeClair
February 14, 2013
Chevrolet is taking some major steps to improve and evolve the Corvette – the automaker is bringing back the beloved Stingray and adding a 6.2L V-8 LT1 engine with over 450 horsepower (335kw). Now, Chevy has revealed its intentions to incorporate heat-activated "smart materials" into the 2014 Corvette.
Chevy and GM are starting small, using a shape memory alloy wire that opens the hatch vent whenever the deck lid is opened in the rear of the car. Basically, heat from an electrical current activates the small wire, which moves a lever arm to open the vent, allowing the trunk lid to close. Once closed, the current switches off, and returns to its original shape.
This replaces a conventional motorized system that weighs approximately 1.1 pounds (499 grams) more.
While it sounds like a small change to the overall weight of the car, Chevy points out that "there are about 200 motorized movable parts on the typical vehicle that could be replaced with lightweight smart materials." A pound here and a pound there can add up to some serious weight reduction, which can improve performance and fuel economy going forward.
Shape memory alloys are typically made of copper-aluminum-nickel or nickel-titanium, and are able to change their properties when activated by heat, stress, a magnetic field, or electrical voltage. Once deactivated, they return to their original shape. It's easy to imagine other places where these materials could replace larger, heavier components.
GM has big plans for these smart materials in the future. The company reportedly has "many more smart material applications in the pipeline that will bring even more improvements to our vehicles going forward.”