Shape Memory Alloys (SMA) consist of a group of metallic materials that demonstrate the ability to return to some previously defined shape when subjected to the appropriate thermal procedure. The shape memory effect occurs due to a temperature and stress dependent shift in the materials crystalline structure between two different phases. Martensite, the low temperature phase, is relatively soft whereas Austenite, the high temperature phase, is relatively hard. The change that occurs within SMAs crystalline structure is not a thermodynamically reversible process and results in temperature hysteresis. The key feature of these materials is the ability to undergo large plastic strains and subsequently recover these strains when a load is removed or the material is heated. Such property can be used to build silent and light actuators, similar to a mechanical muscular fiber. SMA actuators have several advantages in several engineering fields, mainly in robotics, replacing the conventional actuators like motors or solenoids. However, the good performance of the SMA actuator depends on a complex control and cooling systems, reducing the time constant and minimizing the effects of hysteresis. In the present paper, a novel cooling system is proposed, based on thermo-electric effect (Seebeck-Peltier effect). Such method has the advantage of reduced weight and requires a simpler control strategy compared to other forced cooling systems. A complete mathematical model of the actuator is also derived, and an experimental prototype was implemented. Several experiments were used to validate the model and to identify all parameters. In a next work, a control system will be developed and implemented in the prototype, based on the mathematical model here exposed.
Modeling; shape memory alloy actuator; thermoelectric tablet; robotics