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NASA grants $10M to cut supersonic aircraft sonic booms by shape-memory-alloy morphing

July 14, 2017
Source: ASM International

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, announces that it has granted $10 million to a CASMART industry-academic team that will lead research into designing commercially viable civil supersonic transport aircraft that can modify shape during flight under a range of conditions to meet noise and efficiency requirements for overland flight.

CASMART (Consortium for the Advancement of Shape Memory Alloy Research and Technology) co-founders Texas A&M University and Boeing, have proposed a new solution to the problem of sonic booms to NASA, the original CASMART partner in SMA research. The multi-disciplinary team is headed by the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M, and includes researchers from CASMART member organizations Fort Wayne Metals and the University of North Texas.

 NASA selected this CASMART-based team for a five-year, $10 million grant as part of NASA Aeronautics' University Leadership Initiative. The team will lead research into designing commercially-viable civil supersonic transport aircraft that can modify shape during flight under a range of conditions to meet noise and efficiency requirements for overland flight.

 Supersonic aircraft capable of flying faster than the speed of sound (Mach 1) were developed in the 20th century and used mainly for military purposes, especially because of the FAA ban on overland flight. With advances in technology and modern engineering, there is a renewed interest in supersonic aircraft for commercial flight. But to be commercially viable, an SST must meet boom noise limits for a range of flight conditions, and thus requires the ability to adapt at a moment's notice. The ULI research team will explore the potential of SMA-enabled small real-time geometric reconfigurations on the outer mold line of the aircraft to minimize boom signatures and drag in response to those changing conditions.

 The team will combine improved supersonic computational fluid dynamic methods, boom propagation models, and new atmospheric sensing techniques into a new multi-disciplinary design framework. They will focus on determining if embedding shape memory alloy actuators will provide solutions for in-flight adjustments of an SST aircraft from takeoff to landing. The goal is to enable optimal low boom and low drag configurations across all environments.

A detailed study will determine whether SMA materials with the appropriate temperature and force/displacement characteristic exist, and whether SMA-based actuators are economically viable at the system level. The complexity of the investigation and the need to demonstrate true technology transfer from academic institutions to industry partners made CASMART the natural foundation on which to build a winning team.

With Texas A&M as the lead institution, the project will be managed by Dr. Dimitris Lagoudas with the help of Dr. Darren Hartl as the operations director. Co-PI's include other faculty members from the Department of Aerospace Engineering, and Jim Mabe of Boeing. Other CASMART collaborators and members include Dr. Ibrahim Karaman at Texas A&M, Dr. Marcus Young at The University of North Texas, and Dr. Jeremy Schaffer from Fort Wayne Metals.

 Rounding out the team are co-investigators from other organizations, including: Dr. George Dulikravich (Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Florida International University); Dr. Theocharis Baxevanis (Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Houston); Dr. Doug Hunsaker (Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Utah State University); Dr. Eric Blades (ATA Engineering); and Boeing engineers Edward White, Todd Magee, David Lazzara, and Hao Shen.

 The academic institutions will lead the engineering science aspects of the research, transferring new technological capabilities to the industrial partners. These partners, with a background in successful development and deployment of novel shape-memory and supersonic applications, will provide guidance regarding real-world requirements. Industry partners will form the nucleus of an industry advisory board and will evaluate technology commercialization paths from the research outcomes. Students from the six participating academic institutions will have the opportunity to gain valuable experience from world leaders in supersonic platform design, shape memory alloy research, and adaptive structures development.

For more information, contact Othmane Benafan, CASMART executive chairman, at othmane.benafan@nasa.gov."



Subject Classifications

Industries and Applications | Aerospace and Defense

Metals and Alloys | Shape Memory Alloys

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