Smart morphing structures with full shape control

Reference number 2705

Sectors: Industrials

Industries: Aerospace, Defence

Summary

This technology could provide performance advantage through reduced structural requirements and improved handling while reducing power consumption due to the optimised drag characteristics of the morphing wing.

Background

Variable geometries can offer significant advantages to many products and applications as their shape can be gradually and continuously controlled, with less mechanical complexity, than their standard ‘on/off’ counterparts.

Morphing Geometry Technology (MGT) is a changeable geometry structure containing an active “smart” core and a passive flexible outer skin. The morphing wing is an aerofoil member that has a “smart” core made of either an array of piezoelectric actuators or shape memory alloys (SMA) depending on the application requirements, together with a glass or carbon fibre reinforced polyurethane composite skin tailored to any required stiffness. The skin is a passive element, fitting perfectly around the core and remaining attached during the deformation.

Technology

The piezoelectric material or the SMA honeycomb structure can change shape when heat or an electric field is applied, changing the overall shape of the aerofoil core. The passive flexible skin will move with the outer layer of the core to change the profile of the aerofoil.

The application of different electric fields or temperatures to the core structure can then generate different geometries in the aerofoil.

The piezoelectric actuators can change shape within milliseconds while the SMA core will change in a matter of seconds The honeycomb structure of the core allows high strength at relatively low weight. With the application of piezoelectric actuators, the geometric change is virtually instantaneous, making the technology applicable to high speed applications as well as conventional low speed usage.

Benefits

  • Manipulates the whole control surface
  • Reduced complexity of variable systems by eliminating moveable parts and associated equipment
  • Significant performance advantage through optimised geometry, and thus reduced power consumption
  • Virtually instantaneous transformations

Applications

  • Wing/fin: Fixed wing drones, UAV, UUV, cruise-missiles and commercial & military aircraft
  • Energy generation: Wind and water turbines
  • Motorsport: Active aero appendices, body components
  • Construction: Smart panels for climate control, light control, aesthetic elements
  • Consumer products: Morphing snowboards, high performance bicycles

Intellectual property information

This technology is patented in Europe (EP2097314) and in the US (US8186631).

Inventor

Professor Lorenzo Iannucci

Professor of Advanced Structural Design
Faculty of Engineering, Department of Aeronautics

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Contact

Dr Laura Cabo-Fernandez

Industry Partnerships and Commercialisation Officer, Engineering

Dr Laura Cabo-Fernandez is Industry Partnerships and Commercialisation Officer for the Faculty of Engineering at Imperial College London.

Contact Laura

+44 (0)75 9025 0597

l.cabo-fernandez@imperial.ac.uk

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