Boeing to Develop Shape-Memory Alloy Based Actuation System

Chicago, USA – Boeing collaborates alongside members of the European Transonic Windtunnel (ETW), NASA Langley National Transonic Facility (NTF) and supplier Deharde GmbH to develop SMA based actuation system. SMA (Shape-Memory Alloy) is a metal with unique properties that allow it to alter its shape, which means it can do things like stretch or twist, by heating and cooling and still ‘remember’ its original shape. These kind of actuation systems can be applied to a broad spectrum of applications from moving control surfaces to actuating valves to morphing airplanes and even to actuators that automatically respond to their environment.

The Wind Tunnel Remote Control Actuation (RCA) team is a group which is comprised of world-class subject matter experts, including technology developers and wind tunnel test experts, are testing how SMA actuation is integrated into a wind tunnel model to significantly increase testing efficiencies and provide a much richer data set for designing and certifying airplanes. The team has also shown that the time taken to achieve a typical set of test points can be reduced by 80 percent and plans to present its application to other facilities by demonstrating it in the NASA NTF.

In addition, as part of the 2019 ecoDemonstrator program, SMA actuators that deploy vortex generators have been installed and tested in flight. Boeing is leading the way in this and other applications with these actuator systems to improve fuel efficiency, lower carbon dioxide emissions, reduce drag thus leading to more reliable, safer, and greener aviation.

“Wind tunnel testing is an extremely important part of Boeing’s airplane development process,” said F Tad Calkins, Boeing Research & Technology (BR&T) Aeromechanics. “This technology gives us a tool to be much more efficient about it and to test in new and highly valuable ways.”

Image Source: Boeing

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