Microstructural studies of 35 degrees C copper Ni-Ti orthodontic wire and TEM confirmation of low-temperature martensite transformation

William A Brantley, Wenhua Guo, William A T Clark, Masahiro Iijima
Dental Materials 2008, 24 (2): 204-10

BACKGROUND: Previous temperature-modulated differential scanning calorimetry (TMDSC) study of nickel-titanium orthodontic wires revealed a large exothermic low-temperature peak that was attributed to transformation within martensitic NiTi.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to use transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to verify this phase transformation in a clinically popular nickel-titanium wire, identify its mechanism and confirm other phase transformations found by TMDSC, and to provide detailed information about the microstructure of this wire.

METHODS: The 35 degrees C Copper nickel-titanium wire (Ormco) with cross-section dimensions of 0.016 in. x 0.022 in. used in the earlier TMDSC investigation was selected. Foils were prepared for TEM analyses by mechanical grinding, polishing, dimpling, ion milling and plasma cleaning. Standard bright-field and dark-field TEM images were obtained, along with convergent-beam electron diffraction patterns. A cryo-stage with the electron microscope (Phillips CM 200) permitted the specimen to be observed at -187, -45, and 50 degrees C, as well as at room temperature. Microstructures were also observed with an optical microscope and a scanning electron microscope.

RESULTS: Room temperature microstructures had randomly oriented, elongated grains that were twinned. Electron diffraction patterns confirmed that phase transformations took place over temperature ranges previously found by TMDSC. TEM observations revealed a high dislocation density and fine-scale oxide particles, and that twinning is the mechanism for the low-temperature transformation in martensitic NiTi.

CONCLUSIONS: TEM confirmed the low-temperature peak and other phase transformations observed by TMDSC, and revealed that twinning in martensite is the mechanism for the low-temperature peak. The high dislocation density and fine-scale oxide particles in the microstructure are the result of the wire manufacturing process.

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