Size Effects on Magnetic Actuation in Ni-Mn-Ga Shape-Memory Alloys

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The off-stoichiometric Ni2MnGa Heusler alloy is a magnetic shape-memory alloy capable of reversible magnetic-field-induced strains (MFIS). These are generated by twin boundaries moving under the influence of an internal stress produced by a magnetic field through the magnetocrystalline anisotropy. While MFIS are very large (up to 10%) for monocrystalline Ni-Mn-Ga, they are near zero (<0.01%) in fine-grained polycrystals due to incompatibilities during twinning of neighboring grains and the resulting internal geometrical constraints. By growing the grains and/or shrinking the sample, the grain size becomes comparable to one or more characteristic sample sizes (film thickness, wire or strut diameter, ribbon width, particle diameter, etc), and the grains become surrounded by free space. This reduces the incompatibilities between neighboring grains and can favor twinning and thus increase the MFIS. This approach was validated recently with very large MFIS (0.2-8%) measured in Ni-Mn-Ga fibers and foams with bamboo grains with dimensions similar to the fiber or strut diameters and in thin plates where grain diameters are comparable to plate thickness. Here, we review processing, micro- and macrostructure, and magneto-mechanical properties of (i) Ni-Mn-Ga powders, fibers, ribbons and films with one or more small dimension, which are amenable to the growth of bamboo grains leading to large MFIS, and (ii) “constructs” from these structural elements (e.g., mats, laminates, textiles, foams and composites). Various strategies are proposed to accentuate this geometric effect which enables large MFIS in polycrystalline Ni-Mn-Ga by matching grain and sample sizes.