Actuators, Alloys -- Thermal conductivity, Engineering design, Shape memory alloys, Cryogenic, Hysteresis, Niti alloys, R phase, Shape memory effect, Sma spring, Thermal conduction switch, Zero boil off systems


Shape memory alloys (SMAs) can recover large strains (e.g., up to 8%) by undergoing a temperature-induced phase transformation. This strain recovery can occur against large forces, resulting in their use as actuators. The SMA elements in such actuators integrate both sensory and actuation functions. This is possible because SMAs can inherently sense a change in temperature and actuate by undergoing a shape change, associated with the temperature-induced phase transformation. The objective of this work is to develop an SMA based cryogenic thermal conduction switch for operation between dewars of liquid methane and liquid oxygen in a common bulk head arrangement for NASA. The design of the thermal conduction switch is based on a biased, two-way SMA actuator and utilizes a commercially available NiTi alloy as the SMA element to demonstrate the feasibility of this concept. This work describes the design from concept to implementation, addressing methodologies and issues encountered, including: a finite element based thermal analysis, various thermo-mechanical processes carried out on the NiTi SMA elements, and fabrication and testing of a prototype switch. Furthermore, recommendations for improvements and extension to NASA's requirements are presented. Such a switch has potential application in variable thermal sinks to other cryogenic tanks for liquefaction, densification, and zero boil-off systems for advanced spaceport applications. The SMA thermal conduction switch offers the following advantages over the currently used gas gap and liquid gap thermal switches in the cryogenic range: (i) integrates both sensor and actuator elements thereby reducing the overall complexity, (ii) exhibits superior thermal isolation in the open state, and (iii) possesses high heat transfer ratios between the open and closed states. This work was supported by a grant from NASA Kennedy Space Center (NAG10-323) with William U. Notardonato as Technical Officer.


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Graduation Date





Vaidyanathan, Rajan


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering








Release Date

January 2009

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Engineering and Computer Science; Engineering and Computer Science -- Dissertations, Academic

Krishnan_Vinu_B_200405_MS_sma_switch_without_load.avi (603538 kB)
SMA Switch Without Load

Krishnan_Vinu_B_200405_MS_sma_switch_with_load.avi (465543 kB)
SMA Switch With Load

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