Tag Archives: Polymers

Shape Memory And Iron Palladium Alloys

D.A.R.P.A logo

In a highly ambitious materials development study commissioned by The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), experiments conducted by materials scientists for the American military are successfully creating metals that can not only change shape upon the application of an energy field, but can autonomously ‘self-actuate’, producing intelligent alloys that have their own memory and motion capabilities.

DARPA identifies the research as the Development of Compact Hybrid Actuators based on Ferromagnetic Poly-crystal (Fe-Pd) material, & describes the product as “a robust compact actuator based on polycrystalline ferromagnetic shape memory alloy (FSMA) materials.“ Other possible smart materials technologies being explored for integration into military systems include shape memory alloys, piezoelectric actuators, magneto-rheological fluids and solids, self-healing polymers and coatings.

The goal is to develop and exhibit workable composite materials and processes to sustain the manufacture of multiple military morphing applications. The Military intends to develop a template prototype for improved function in vehicle bodies ready for integration with their existing hardware for operational use. In the process, DARPA are applying a specialized catalogue of smart materials technologies, such as shape memory polymers, self-actuating composites, and dynamic syntactic foams. They also employ smart materials, engineering design, fabrication, and other supporting technologies to meet the goals and requirements of the military industrial complex.

Called Iron-Palladium alloys, these metals possess super-elasticity & shape-shifting capabilities, augmented further by the integration of more ‘intelligent’

Nokia Shape memory phone

components into the alloy, allows it to generate its own energy field to reshape. The metal itself incorporates an ‘electromagnetic driving unit’ and a ‘position sensor with a central unit.’ The Fe-Pd spring actuator is just 15cm in length by a diameter of 3 cm, yet this spring will become an intelligent autonomous machine with a remarkable tensile strength for its own ‘shape memory’.

Optimized for best performance around one operating point & similar in architecture to biological systems, these new actuators are like individual elements arranged in parallel-series assemblies, but use very different building blocks. Upon the generation of an electric current or magnetic field these alloys will, with no moving parts, change shape & rapidly. They are termed ‘compact hybrid actuators’, or ‘living metals’ & are designed to mimic living systems in their versatility and dynamism through the integration of advanced nano-technologies. DARPA’s smart structures engineering team are focused on integrating multiple smart material technologies with conventional actuation mechanisms, and on developing realistic morphing structure concepts for theatre applications. The research will help define near-term morphing abilities, help identify the next enabling materials technologies necessary to round out structural morphing composites, and predict the exponential growth of morphing capabilities.

Shape memory car

With the use of combustible fuel sources, the small elements comprising the actuation system achieve high power and energy density, allowing efficient energy conversion via oscillatory and resonant processes. Rather than by valves or power transistors, the power produced is modulated at the individual element level, providing effective efficient power output with less input. Mass production methods via a use of modular architecture where many similar or identical elements are used, allows cost effective manufacture as well as economies of scale. This approach, characterized by the use of many elements systematically interconnected in terms of structure, physical effort, and information is termed Organismic Systems by the scientific community & incorporates the basic principles of nano-technology.

These metals built at the molecular level are essentially machines with complex internal systems & structures that mimic organic ones. The metal alloy actuators are essentially autonomous, the nano-machines incorporated into the metal alloys utilize energy sources at the ‘individual’ level & assign the material characteristics generally attributed to extraterrestrial craft. There are many magnetic anomalies reported by witnesses and researchers that ascribe certain attributes to this material, that have a connection with UFO technology. and a correlation between changing form and magnetic field effects appears to be an important consideration.

Shape memory wing foil

Their potential application for the U.S. military has driven them to funding a variety of related research programs exploring the full range of options proposed by private-sector aerospace consortiums including Boeing, M.I.T., Moog and Lockheed Martin in conjunction with several university departments in receipt of grants from the U.S. Military. The entire project is endorsed by the US Army Research Office, the Office Of Naval Research, NASA Langley Research Center, & the Space Operations Vehicle Technology Office, AFRL/VAS at Wright Patterson AFB.

Some of the projects being explored include: the research & development of assault vehicles with self-repairing armored shells that react like living organisms with noise cancellation capabilities to ‘cloak’ them on an auditory level; in-flight navigation, guidance and control systems for smart bombs that lie dormant, that can identify a target through face recognition; shape-changing bombers that transform into jet fighters, including morphing aeroforms in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and fighter aircraft; advanced optical systems for satellite technology, as well as sonar-absorbing materials for submarines with respect to the sonar deductibility of torpedoes; & ‘exo-skeletons’ incorporating neural transmission technologies between the soldier’s brain waves and his living metal smart skin.

The power to drive the actuators is portable, and could be worn like a back-pack by soldiers. Like ‘nano-technology’ designed at a molecular level, the intelligent ‘biological’ actuators have purpose-built machines within them. Placed in the context of brain implants that can pick up neurological information directly, this information could then readily be transferred to the ‘morphing metal’ interface that will be capable of adapting to the complex commands delivered by the brain. other applications include the development of prosthetic limbs made of these alloys that receive direct instruction from the wearer’s brain, & behave like real limbs & muscles.

Nitinol invented by metallurgist William Buehler

Highly specialized privatized materials research companies, commissioned to develop this technology, in their design and engineering efforts will focus on integrating new adaptive materials technologies into standard composite armatures. CRG are developing a preliminary prototype design of an adaptive wing structure. By establishing a processing approach to fabrication, validating these fabrication processes to demonstrate a working segment of a morphing wing to prove feasibility, the company hopes to have a working integrated system of manufacture by project’s end. Design considerations for the adaptive wing include wing mass, primary structure, leading and trailing edges, airfoil balance, seamless skin, internal structure, actuation mechanisms, and environmental stability.

Aurora X-plane

These programs will establish the technology necessary to assemble deployable morphing aircraft and other innovative adaptive structure concepts vital to maintain military advantage. In addition to enhancing the aerospace industry’s system platform capabilities, this technology will also enhance the ability to broaden their system capabilities for multiple Department of Defense (DOD) applications planned in the near and far term. This advancement will improve performance for other current or future applications. The development of this technology from prototype to integration and manufacturing will demonstrate the superiority of the Military in the fields of research, development and materials innovation, as well as maintain funding.


The Molecular Foundry

Ant with micro-processor

The first known human application of nano-technology can be seen in the stain glass panels on the churches & cathedrals of medieval Europe. The colors in these windows were achieved by a controlled heating & cooling process that alters the structure of tiny crystals in the glass changing their pigment. Similarly today scientists can reduce materials to their atomic scale causing them to exhibit a different color at varying stages of reduction toward a sub-atomic level. Unlike the medieval artisans however, Scientists can observe this process & control its behavior, allowing them to design materials on a nano scale rather than just discover them by accident.

The ability to construct machines at the sub-atomic level is called nano-technology & as so far removed from the natural world as it seems it actually is not. Nature has been constructing on the nano-scale since time immemorial, as evidenced in the protein assemblies that operate the rotors & engines such as the flagellum of a bacterium or the self assembling actuators of a reptile that has lost one of its limbs. The building principles that are intrinsic to molecular engineering are the very processes by which nature replicates itself.

Photo synthesis & voltaics are efficient reciprocal forms of energy conversion & exchange that allow plants to flourish. Every minute enough sunlight reaches the earth to meet the world’s energy demands for a whole year. This factor is drawing the pursuit of finding a clean perpetual alternative source of energy into the realm of nano-science. Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories’ Molecular Foundry are taking nanotechnology out of the realm of theorems & into the world of practical working reality. Researchers in the manufacture of solar panels are replacing heavy expensive & fragile silicon with improvised polymers that behave more like nylon. Researchers are replacing crystalline silicon as the light absorbing material in solar cells &

Molecular gears

replacing it with polymer.

Scientists can design conjugated polymers that exhibit conduction of the electrons to the electrodes by adding side chains to them to make them more soluble; to make them better conductors; that change the energy levels & band gaps of these polymers. Scientists have the ability to control individual molecules to increase efficiency & structural integrity of every single atom that composes the material they are examining as a whole.

The ability to observe & alter things at the atomic & sub-atomic levels has lead to the development of an excess of new materials applications, notwithstanding the construction of working nano-mechanical machines. Combined with the ability to observe this change Scientists are able to control & direct this altered behavior. What was once a simple list of Elements called the periodic table now branches out into new dimensions. A nano-meter is a unit of measure that is 1 billionth of a meter, in engineering this small Scientists have found that everyday materials exhibit characteristics that they otherwise would not in their macro-biotic state. These distorted behaviors have lead to the development of faster computer chips, tiny medical devices that can repair clogged arteries & new filtration systems that eradicate environmental pollutants.

One of the key techniques in creating these distortions is called Quantum Confinement, or the

Medical Nanobot

reduction of a material to the point that electrons are squeezed into a space they are not naturally comfortable with. The smaller you make the Chrystal the higher the electron’s charge will be. Its kinetic energy is increased shortening its wavelength causing it to travel around its space more quickly. In conjunction with this is the relationship between volume & surface & how it determines nano-scale behaviors. Things this small have more on the outside than on the inside, Most of the material is surface allowing more reactions to take place. Although the benefits of nano-technology when applied to environmental problems such as Global Warming, contamination of drinking water, air pollution & so forth are self evident, the technology still has its risks. Some Governments are talking about regulating nano-science by amending their hazardous materials law to include nano-particles. Because nano-scale materials can enter living cells the danger posed to the health of an individual & the natural environment is very real. Scientists are examining the nature of the interaction between new engineered artificial molecular materials & living systems in the hopes of finding ethical applications & programming safe guards into the new technology.

It is by no stretch of the imagination that we can extrapolate on how the materials enhancement applications of Nano-technology can be assimilated into a military soldier augmentation programme. Nano-technology affords the field operative various tools & abilities that could greatly increase the success of mission objectives & decrease the risk of danger to a soldier’s life. Technologies such as nano-reactive muscle propulsion systems could be designed into a soldier’s uniform that speed muscle responses to aid movement in pursuit & capture, & impact during unarmed combat. Nano-fibers could be built into the fabric of the uniform that could not only insulate from the cold & ventilate heat, but could penetrate sub-dermally to heal broken bones & form a thin membrane like a cast around the injury. Carbon fiber nano tubes being fugitive, that is unfixed, could cluster to form a protective casing like a shield to deflect projectiles & prevent the penetration of bullets.


This virtual exo-skeleton made from artificially engineered materials that bend light around 3 dimensional objects & sound suppression technologies, render its wearer invisible to all electrical forms of detection as well as the human eye. With the addition of a headgear unit that encapsulates all the advantages of x-ray, infer-red & night vision, GPS satellite navigation & fractal macro & micro zoom technologies the nano-technologically advanced super soldier surpasses any in military history.