Deflection and shape change of smart composite laminates using shape memory alloy actuators
Shape memory materials have been known for many years to possess the unique ability of memorising their shape at some temperature. If these materials are pre-strained into the plastic range, they tend to recover their original un-strained shapes via phase transformation when subjected to heat stimulation. In recent years, this shape memory effect (SME) or strain recovery capability has been explored in aerospace structures for actuating the real-time movement of structural components. Among all the shape memory materials, the nickel-titanium based shape memory alloy (SMA) has by far received the most attention because of its high recovery capabilities. Since SMAs are usually drawn into the form of wires, they are particularly suitable for being integrated into fibre-reinforced composite structures. These integrated composite structures with SMA wires are thus called smart adaptive structures. To achieve the SME, these wires are normally embedded in the host composite structures. In returning to their unstrained shape upon heat application, they tend to exert internal stresses on the host composite structures in which they are embedded. This action could result in a controlled change in shape of the structural components. Although there has been a significant amount of research dedicated to characterising and modelling the SME of SMA wires, little experimental work had been done to offer an in-depth understanding of the mechanical behaviour of these smart adaptive polymeric composite structures. This project examined the deflection and shape change of carbon/epoxy and glass/epoxy cantilever beams through heating and cooling of internal nitinol SMA wires/strips. The heat damage mechanism and cyclic behaviour are major factors in the operation of such a system and need to be clearly understood in order to develop and gain confidence for the possible implementation of future smart actuating systems. Therefore, the objectives of the proposed research were to investigate (i) effect of embedding SMA, wires on mechanical properties of host composite, (ii) assessment of single-cycle and multiple-cycle actuation performance of smart beams, and (iii) thermal effects of excessive heat on the surrounding composite matrix.