SMA on Mars matt gorbet






Shape Memory Alloys (SMA) are a type of metal with the fascinating property that they can be "trained" to assume a certain shape at a given temperature. They are most often used in Muscle Wire robotics applications.

This research project was a collaboration with my brother Robert Gorbet, a leading expert on SMA, and Shilajeet "Banny" Banerjee, product designer and mechanical engineer extraordinaire.

We had the opportunity to design an experiment for inclusion on an upcoming NASA mission to Mars, and decided to explore how SMA reacts to the ambient temperature changes on the Martian surface. For our experiment, we were given a cylindrical payload space 10mm high and 10mm in diameter. That is VERY SMALL! (It's expensive to send stuff to Mars...)

To maximize space, we angled the samples in their mount so that they could be longer, and overlapped them in 3D. Their training will make them bend inwards (the red "control" will not be trained), and a video camera will take periodic images of them over the course of the Martian day.

It is hoped that this research will give us a better understanding of the feasibility of using SMA to create exploration robots whose motion relies only on ambient temperature changes.