Making a Nitinol Wire Inchworm


[Steven's] at it again with another cool science experiment that isn’t too difficult to do. This time he’s made himself a Nitinol wire inchworm, which actually moves across the table when you apply a switching electrical current to it!

Nitinol is a shape memory alloy which has a cool property that causes it to retain (and return to) a preset shape when heat (or electricity!) is applied. It’s actually quite simple — he’s wrapped the Nitinol wire tightly around a nail, and then heated it to set it to a coiled shape. Now the Nitinol spring can be stretched out flat, but as soon as it is heated, it will attempt to return to its coiled state!

Using some balsa wood and a few other odds and ends he’s taken advantage of this memory effect to make an electric inchworm — check it out after the break!

He’s also made a great video explaining how Nitinol wire works, and how to use it:

And if your interested in making one yourself, he’s planning on releasing a how-to video shortly — stay tuned!


  1. It’s nice to see nitinol projects.
    I remember a book called muscle wire which had a spider project with a Z80 controller!

  2. cool..very nice effort..thanks for sharing..

  3. You know, we have truly magic materials these days.

  4. qwerty says:

    A very light solar panel with enough juice could propel autonomously that worm at the warp-like speed of one “step” per day, no other electronics required.

    Nearly impossible with todays solar panel technology but one day maybe…

  5. Charging up a capacitor and discharging it into a spring loaded solenoid or DC motor might work.

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