Nickel technology could lead to discovering the ‘perfect knot’

By @vitthernandez on
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama participates at a knot-tying station as she welcomes a group of Girl Scouts to the "Let's Move Outside" campout on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington June 30, 2015. A group of 50 fourth-grade Girl Scouts plan to spend the night in camping tents on the lawn, a celebration of the scouting movement and the National Park Service centennial. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Pedro Reis of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, in Cambridge has developed an existing theory (from physicist Basile Audoly) that the simplest of all knots — the overhand knot — can be tightened in a way that it will never be loose again. Reis used a special kind of nickel titanium wire to determine the right amount of force needed to achieve the “perfect knot.”

“Audoly's theory proved successful up to a point, being able to predict the correct force for overhand knots with either one or two twists. But the topology [configuration] of such a knot can be varied easily by simply repeating the over-under weaving to create overhand knots in which the lace ends twist around each other two or more times,” New Science Mag explained .

That’s why Reis decided to come up with a separate study that aims to prove that Audoly’s theory is “still a success” by simply improving it. Reis tied various knots with different kinds of twists in a highly elastic nickel titanium wire. He then fastened the wire to a flat surface to pull the knots as tight as he could through the use of a machine-driven arm.

He successfully measured the force applied to the arm and learned that a knot with 10 twists yanked 1,000 times stronger than one with a single twist could do the job, something that Audoly failed to accomplish. However, Reis suggested that it would work only for overhand knots, and different knots would certainly involve different kinds of methodologies to predict the right force needed to meet perfection.

“A lot of knowledge about knots is empirical. We have taken a more rational approach and have created a predictive framework. It is what the community was lacking,” Reis said.

Additionally, finding out the hidden secrets of different knots could also be done with the same process and materials, with elastic nickel titanium wire.

Nickel as a market

Nitinol, or the super-elastic nickel, has been used in many physics laboratories because it could easily be shaped and bent according to its purpose, making it a very useful material in experiments. The science world—or the research and development segment—has become an essential entity for the nickel mining sector. This becomes more apparent these days, as the shaky global nickel market.

Currently, the global nickel market is suffering from weak supply and demand due to various global quandaries such as weak economic data from China, higher US dollar value, and ongoing political and economic crisis in Europe.

Also, up-and-coming nickel producers like Amur Minerals (London AIM: AMC) could look at this segment the moment they decide to sell their products on the market. The Russia-based nickel mining company has decided to build its own smelting plants on its Kun-Manie Reserve (one of the largest nickel deposits in the world today) to sell cheaper, high-grade ores on the market in the future.

Suppliers—or the nickel miners—should know that the demand segment is not just about the steel makers. Scientists and private firms that focus on unraveling the mysteries of science also need their products. 

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