A report describes the development of a mechanism that automatically clamps upon warming and releases upon cooling between temperature limits of 180 K and 293 K. The mechanism satisfied a need specific to a program that involved repeated excursions of a spectrometer between a room-temperature atmospheric environment and a cryogenic vacuum testing environment. The mechanism was also to be utilized in the intended application of the spectrometer, in which the spectrometer would be clamped for protection during launch of a spacecraft and released in the cold of outer space to allow it to assume its nominal configuration for scientific observations. The mechanism is passive in the sense that its operation does not depend on a control system and does not require any power other than that incidental to heating and cooling. The clamping and releasing action is effected by bolt-preloaded stacks of shape-memory-alloy (SMA) cylinders. In designing this mechanism, as in designing other, similar SMA mechanisms, it was necessary to account for the complex interplay among thermal expansion, elastic and inelastic deformation under load, and SMA thermomechanical properties.

This work was done by David Rosing and Virginia Ford of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Mechanics category.

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Temperature-Controlled Clamping and Releasing Mechanism (reference NPO-40541) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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