The stability of Ni in titanium oxide surface layers on nitinol wires known to release certain amounts of Ni was investigated by first principles density functional theory and transmission electron microscopy. The oxides were identified as a combination of TiO and TiO2 depending on the thickness of the layer. The calculations indicate that free Ni atoms can exist in TiO at ambient temperature while Ni particles form in TiO2, which was confirmed by the transmission electron microscopy observations. The results are discussed with respect to surface stability and Ni release due to free Ni atoms and Ni particles. (C) 2010 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.