Mechanical Properties of Candidate Materials for Morphing Wings
Kikuta, Michael Thomas
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The research presented in this thesis investigates the mechanical properties of candidate materials that could be used as a skin for a morphing wing. A morphing wing is defined as a wing that changes shape. Although engineers have been designing different morphing wing configurations, there has been limited research investigating materials that could be used as a skin for a morphing wing. Specifically, after investigating the different morphing wing abilities engineers at Virginia Tech are designing, criteria were determined for candidate materials. A suitable skin material for a morphing wing will have to be elastic, flexible, have high recovery, resistant to different weather conditions, resistant to abrasions and chemicals, and have a hardness number high enough to handle the aerodynamic loads of the aircraft while in flight. Using some of the preceding criteria, different materials were selected that are readily available in the commercial market. The materials tested were a type of thermoplastic polyurethanes, copolyester elastomer, shape memory polymer, or woven materials that are made out of elastane yarns. The first study determined the required forces to strain the material in a uniaxial direction. A test stand was designed with a gripping device to hold the material. By grounding one side of the material, the other side of the material was pulled using a winch. Using a force transducer and a string potentiometer the required forces and the amount the material was strained was recorded, respectively. Utilizing the same test stand, the amount the material recovered was also acquired. Also, by measuring how much the material necked the elongation ratio was calculated. The final test determined if the forces relaxed" after being strained to a stationary position. It was found that each material performed differently, but some materials were definitely better suited for morphing wing material. The materials that were made out of thermoplastic polyurethanes, copolyester elastomer, and shape memory polymer required less force and were able to strain more, when compared to the woven materials. The second study determined if the material could be strained in a biaxial direction. The reason for this was for a better understand how the material would perform if the material was strained to an extreme condition. A test stand was designed using the same principles and components as the uniaxial test stand. The only difference was additional sensors were required to measure the force and strain along the other axis. Although a recovery analysis was warranted for the biaxial experiments, most of the materials test failed while being strained a small amount. Also, the material strained a lot less before ripping, when compared to the straining capabilities when only being strained in the uniaxial direction. After conducting the experiments, the results were similar to the uniaxial experimental results. In terms of required forces to strain the material, the thermoplastic polyurethanes and the copolyester elastomer required less force, when compared to the woven materials. The only advantage of the woven materials was they did not break. The final study determined how much the material deflected while being subjected to a pressure load before breaking. The test stand used an air compressor to supply a pressure load to the material, while a laser vibrometer measured how much the material deflected. A regulator was used to control the amount of pressure that was applied to the material. As the pressure load was increased, the material deflected more. The test stand also determined the maximum sustained pressure load the material could handle before breaking. After conducting all the experiments and analyzing the data, it was found woven materials are not suitable as a skin material. The reason air is allowed to pass through the woven material. Therefore, woven materials could not sustain the aerodynamic loads of an aircraft while in flight. The rest of the materials performed differently. Specifically if the material strained well and required less force while conducting the uniaxial and biaxial experiments, those materials could not sustain a high pressure load. Yet, the materials that did not strain well and required more force were able to handle a larger sustained pressure load."
- Masters' Theses