Shape memory alloys (SMA) have been an extensively used material for actuators in micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) because actuation force and displacement are greatest in SMA amongst many actuator materials . Of the alloys currently available for SMA actuators, the most popular system is Nitinol (or NiTi) due to its good oxidation resistance, reversible martensitic transformation, broad range of transformation temperatures (from -100 - 100 °C), and specific power density . Current commercially available SMA wire has easily achieved no-load strain of 5% with medium gage SMA wires demonstrating an axial force capacity of 2 Newtons or more. While the potential use of SMA materials in a thermal-electric motor has been documented beginning in the 1980's, there are a number of new allows and fatigue-resistant materials that may lead to more general designs with a wide range of motions and applications. Shape memory alloys are a special type of material that exhibit two unique properties, pseudo-elasticity and shape memory effect (SME). SMA undergoes SME because of martensitic or diffusionless transformation where each atom has a slight displacement, creating observable changes throughout the structure as the allow changes states. This alloy has the ability, once heated, to return to its parent austenite phase where it exists at higher symmetry. Upon cooling, the material returns to one of many lower symmetry martensitic phases. This thermal cycle is shown in Figure 1. [3,4]. It is even possible for many variants of martensite to be present in the same material. Pseudo-elasticity is a rubber-like flexibility that allows the SMA to be contorted for a variety of purposes. Once contorted, the application of heat will cause the alloy to undergo martensitic transformation. Upon completion of the cycle, the alloy will have returned to its original shape. The development of SMA-based electromechanical devices delivers traditional mechanical motion with non-traditional methods. Rather than electromagnetic components rotating about a central axis to produce power, the rotary SMA motor utilizes contracting elements, and mush as spark ignition rotary engine, it can be designed to produce angular motion. Motion is accomplished with sequenced electrical signals sent across each element mounted between an eccentric crank. Rotary motion is produced during the power portion of the cycle for specific SMA elements under the application of an electrical signal. Based on this concept, our team developed a demonstration model with four active elements. We have demonstrated rotary motion of the device for an extended period of time, and we believe that macro-scale models can reduce the concept substantially and perhaps to the MEMS level.
Nickel-Titanium Shape Memory Alloy Motors and Electromechanical Devices
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James, E, Grant, J, Alberter, M, Dasque, N, Price, C, & Craft, WJ. "Nickel-Titanium Shape Memory Alloy Motors and Electromechanical Devices." Proceedings of the ASME 2006 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition. Aerospace. Chicago, Illinois, USA. November 5–10, 2006. pp. 301-304. ASME. https://doi.org/10.1115/IMECE2006-15119
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