materials and coatings
Self-Healing Aluminum Metal Matrix Composite (MMC)
This materials system is comprised of an Al metal matrix with high-performance SMA reinforcements. The combination of the unique matrix composition and SMA elements allow for this material system to self-repair via a two-step crack repair method. When a crack is present in the matrix material, the MMC is heated above the SMA's austenite start (As) temperature. This initiates shape recovery of the SMA, pulling the crack together as the SMA reinforcements return to their initial length. Concurrently, the increased temperature causes softening and liquefaction of the eutectic micro-constituent in the matrix, which enables the recovery of plastic strain in the matrix as well as crack filling. Combined with the crack closure force provided by the SMA reinforcements completely reverting to their original length, the MMC welds itself together and, upon cooling, results in a solidified composite able to realize its pre-cracked, original strength. The research team has demonstrated and tested the new materials. The team induced cracks in prototype materials based on Al-Si matrix with SMA (NiTi) reinforcements and demonstrated the recovery of tensile strength after healing. Data from tensile and fatigue tests of the samples before and after the fatigue crack healing shows a 91.6% healing efficiency on average under tensile conditions.
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.
Lightweight, Self-Deployable Helical Antenna
NASA's newly developed antenna is lightweight (at or below 2 grams), low volume (at or below 1.2 cm3), and low stowage thickness (approx. 0.7 mm), all while delivering high performance (at or above 10 dBi gain). The antenna includes a novel design-material combination in a helical coil conformation. The design allows the antenna to compress for stowage (e.g., satellite launch), then self-deploy at the desired time in orbit. NASA's lightweight, self-deployable helical antenna can be integrated into a thin-film solar array (or other large deployable structures). Integrating antenna elements into deployable structures such as power generation arrays allows spacecraft designers to maximize the inherently limited resources (e.g., mass, volume, surface area) available in a small spacecraft. When used as a standalone (i.e., single antenna) setup, the the invention offers moderate advantages in terms of stowage thickness, volume, and mass. However, in applications that require antenna arrays, these advantages become multiplicative, resulting in the system offering the same or higher data rate performance while possessing a significantly reduced form factor. Prototypes of NASA's self-deployable, helical antenna have been fabricated in S-band, X-band, and Ka-band, all of which exhibited high performance. The antenna may find application in SmallSat communications (in deep space and LEO), as well as cases where low mass and stowage volume are valued and high antenna gain is required.