NASA’s Glenn Research Center has developed a groundbreaking method for using shape memory alloys (SMAs) to split apart rock formations without explosives or hydraulics.

Conventional approaches present difficulties in transportation and operation and can badly damage underlying samples during use. Glenn’s innovation exploits cutting-edge SMA compositions to deliver controllable stresses in excess of 1500 megapascals (MPa), which is up to four times greater than the force exerted by commercial equiatomic SMAs. The SMA compositions are also tunable to multiple activation temperatures up to 400°C, depending on the usage environments. Glenn’s Shape Memory Alloy Rock Splitters (SMARS) device generates this power without any demolition damage to the surrounding environment, and in a package that combines reliability, ease of setup and activation, and cost-effectiveness.

This technology could prove invaluable to enterprises as varied as oil drilling, mining, civil engineering, fossil collection, and search-and-rescue operations any field that requires compact, but large, static forces.

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Dr. Othmane Benafan, Materials Research Engineer, NASA Glenn Research Center

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