NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a self-latching piezocomposite actuator. The self-latching nature of this invention allows for piezo actuators that do not require constant power draw. Among other applications, the invention is well suited for use in aerodynamic control surfaces and engine inlets. The technology is a self-latching piezoelectric actuator with power-off, set-and-hold capability. Integrated into an aerodynamic control surface or engine inlet, the self-latching piezocomposite actuator may function as a trim tab, variable camber airfoil, vortex generator, or winglet with adjustable shapes. Deflections could be made in-flight, and set and maintained (latched) without a constant power draw. Current piezo actuators require constant power to control and manage their electric fields. The control device leverages the shape memory behavior (specifically, the remnant stress-strain behavior) to create a morphing actuator that changes and holds the new shape with no applied control signal.
The actuator helps save mass by eliminating the need for some electrical equipment, and eliminates the need for a persistent controlling electrical field. It is viable with many piezo materials.
Applications for this technology include aircraft adaptive-camber airfoils, trim tabs, deformable engine inlets, and adaptive or adjustable vortex generators. It can also be used in space optics and reflector systems.