Robust and inexpensive actuator to generate motion in small-scale devices
Summary Innovation and Advantages: The invention is a novel design and fabrication of a millimeter scale SMA actuator used to generate motion. In addition, the researchers have developed a novel system for annealing shape memory alloys (SMA). This system allows for the creation of a spring that has discrete contraction lengths, as opposed to the â€œall or nothingâ€ contraction of current SMA springs. Unlike existing techniques, our method is robust and can create accurate contraction lengths. Our method allows contraction that mimics the motion of biological systems, in which muscles are able to contract to specified lengths. This is especially useful in micro-robotics, for which electric motors are no longer feasible. Our novel SMA actuator has a simple design and can be fabricated easily, and it is robust, inexpensive, and scalable.
Applications Markets/Needs Addressed: Actuators are used to perform a variety of functions in almost every type of electromechanical system, â€œsmartâ€ device, and instrument. Increasingly, in many applications, actuators need to achieve reduced size, power consumption, and cost. There is a need for a smaller and more powerful actuator in medicine, biotechnology, information technology, space, manufacturing, military, and micro- and nanotechnology. Harvard researchers have used shape memory alloys (SMAs) to design such a small, inexpensive actuator that is easily scalable. Our novel SMA actuator can be used in both autonomous and controlled in vivo diagnosis devices that are equipped with video and other sensors. Other uses include small, unmanned aquatic sensing devices for homeland security applications and environmental monitoring.
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Wood, Robert J.
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