I was thinking of Monel for your heating wire not the platesI took the risk that the temperature fluctuation would be relatively small, given the PID controller, and the relatively small size of the heating plates.
alloy 400 looks at first glance to have coefficient of expansion very close to aluminum's
and good chloride resistance
and it comes in wire
Coefficient of thermal expansion @20-100C ( x10-6 K-1 ) 13.9-14.1
im having difficulty locating chloride resistance of 80-20 Nichrome
here's a tech brief that might have some search terms for a long winter nigh
if tension is a culprit , matching expansion rates should help
if it's chlorides , the right alloy should help
get those broken ends under a magnifier
can you see grains or did it melt and erase the evidence ?
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