“Weather-Tolerant Capability” is considered essential in the expanding urban air mobility vehicle industry. Erosion effects of rain, dust, and sand on vehicle surfaces, especially the rotor surfaces, have a considerable effect on operational and maintenance costs. Another crucial environmental condition that heavily impacts flight safety is ice accretion. This proposal addresses a novel erosion shield system incorporating passive ice-protective technology that can be applied directly to helicopter blades for cost-effective reparability of blades.
The Phase I effort will focus on the design and test of an SMA based erosion tape prototype with natural durability qualities as well as the ability to change phase (strain) for anti-icing properties. Its unique nature of high stress output rate and low power requirements is a promising material to meet the need for energy savings required for electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles. The SMA material is made to perform a thermally activated shape change action that is analogous to a conventional thermal expansion except that it is enhanced to the levels needed to deice. Instead of the thermal input being applied via conventional technology, it can be supplied passively from latent heat transfer energy due to the formation of the ice itself to transform the SMA and mechanically debond the ice.
During Phase II, we will work with NASA and commercial suppliers to define installation and configuration requirements necessary to develop a to-scale SMA based deicing system. Final SMA erosion tape configurations will be tested and validated in natural icing and erosion flight conditions.
NASA seeks technologies to meet future needs of the aviation community for safe and environmentally sustainable air transportation. The passive SMA tape would fulfill a critical technology gap for power limited electric vehicles to enable flight in instrument meteorological conditions. The proposed erosion tolerant tape can be applied to NASA unmanned air vehicles, Lunar and Planetary ground exploration vehicles, and Mars exploration rotorcraft where dust and sand erosion is a major safety concern.
Non-NASA applications would be focused on developing large volumes of highly durable SMA tape materials for application to package delivery drones, automobiles, Boats as well as a wide range of commercial/home repair applications where specialty tapes are in high demand. This large consumer market is estimated to be over $100million in annual sales.