mechanical and fluid systems
Shape Memory Alloy (SMA)-Enabled Actuators
Actuators typically have large footprints and mass to meet the power output needed for operation, leading to design hurdles for aircraft and space applications. Innovators at NASA Glenn developed two novel actuators with different configurations of tubes of SMA to provide rotary output. The SMA tubes are deformed in their martensitic condition and when exposed to a thermal stimulus, the tubes will revert to their original state while providing rotary motion. One variation of the innovation nests the SMA tubes within a rotary actuator imparting several technical benefits. Nested SMA tubes can decrease the length of the actuator while achieving the same twist angle. For the same actuator length, a nested configuration of SMA tubes can multiply the twist angle and improve the power output. A second variation utilizes SMA components as transmission elements in a ring drive gear to enable continuous rotation in one direction. Previous similar SMA actuators rotate in one direction while heating and the other while cooling, which can limit the output of the rotary actuator. The innovation developed by NASA allows for continuous rotation in ANY direction, thereby allowing the rotational output capability to be independent from the amount of cyclic angular twist provided by the SMA tubes.
Outer Aileron Yaw Damper
Rudders have long served as the primary flight control surface as is pertains to aircraft yaw. Breaking this mold, NASA's SAW technology is a game-changing development in aircraft wing engineering that reduces rudder motion required to control aircraft. The benefits of reduced rudder dependency led NASA to develop the outer aileron yaw damper to further decrease or eliminate rudder dependency for aircraft using SAWs. As mentioned, SAWs use shape memory alloy actuators to articulate the outer portion of the wing, effectively creating a movable wingtip. NASA's invention uses an outer aileron located on the wingtips, which is driven (along with the inner ailerons) by a novel control algorithm. The control algorithm, taking into account the wingtip positions, manipulates the outer ailerons to achieve the desired yaw rate. At the same time, it positions the inner ailerons to counter roll rate resulting from the outer aileron. In other words, the control algorithm calculates a control surface ratio (i.e., position of inboard aileron and outboard aileron) that produces desired yaw and roll accelerations. The system can also be used to offset the existing rudder in current or future aircraft designs. A second part of NASAs novel outer aileron control algorithm modifies the aircrafts rudder loop gain in proportion to outer aileron usage. This allows the outer ailerons and rudder to work in tandem, while at the same time reducing rudder usage. As a result of this NASA invention, required rudder usage can be reduced or eliminated for aircraft with SAWs. Consequently, the size of rudders and vertical tail structures can be reduced, which in turn reduces weight and parasitic drag. The result is an aircraft with increased performance and fuel efficiency.