News Column

Patent Issued for Shape Memory Thermal Sensors

July 16, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews journalists, a patent by the inventors Koehler, Frederick B. (Tucson, AZ); Lyman, Ward D. (Tucson, AZ), filed on June 8, 2011, was published online on July 1, 2014.

The assignee for this patent, patent number 8764286, is Raytheon Company (Waltham, MA).

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "A variety of apparatuses may be used for actuating objects or holding together objects that need to be later released. For example, an explosive bolt can be used to attach two or more objects and may later release the objects with an explosive force. An explosive bolt incorporates explosives that cause an explosion when initiated or triggered. The explosion breaks apart the explosive bolt to release the objects. The problem with explosive bolts is that they are dangerous to handle because of the explosives and the explosion may exert a large amount of shock load that may damage fragile machinery. In addition, shrapnel pieces or foreign object debris (FOD) resulting from the explosion can interfere with machinery or optics.

"A variety of systems include sensitive components configured to operate at or below specified temperatures. Exposure of these systems to elevated temperatures may damage components and thereby render the systems inoperable or partially inoperable. Further, in some examples storage systems are required to maintain items stored therein at or below specified temperatures. Where the storage systems fail to maintain these temperatures the items are damaged, begin to break down (e.g., where perishable) and the like.

"In some examples, thermal data loggers coupled with thermal sensors (e.g., thermometers) are used to measure and store temperature data. Loggers and sensors are relatively expensive and subject to failure during operation because of the complex electronics included. Further, thermal data loggers and thermal sensors require coupling with computers to interpret and display temperature data. The supplemental computers and the like add additional cost and equipment to a system including a thermal data logger and thermal sensors."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "In an embodiment, a separating apparatus is provided that comprises a pre-strained member formed from a shape memory alloy. This member is configured to separate upon application of heat and the separation is configured to actuate an object.

"In another embodiment, an apparatus is provided that comprises a first object, a second object, and a separating apparatus that is configured to couple the first object to the second object. In this example, the separating apparatus is formed from a shape memory alloy and is configured to separate upon application of heat.

"In yet another embodiment, a separating apparatus is provided that comprises a pre-strained member configured to couple a first object to a second object. The member is formed from a shape memory alloy and is configured to separate and release the first object from the second object upon application of heat.

"In still yet another embodiment, a method is provided for actuating an object that is configured to be in contact with an actuator. The actuator has a pre-strained member formed from a shape memory alloy and is configured to be in contact with the actuator. In this method, heat is applied to the member and the application of heat is configured to cause the member to separate, where the separation is configured to actuate the object.

"In a further embodiment, a system and method are provided for detecting whether a specified temperature range has been met or exceeded. The system and method use a shape memory substrate configured to fracture at the specified temperature range. The shape memory substrate provides a mechanism that is readily tunable to fracture and thereby indicate meeting or exceeding of a specified temperature. For instance, the systems and methods described herein use a shape memory substrate that is tuned to change phases (and fracture when held static) according to the selection of the shape memory material, its thermal and mechanical conditioning and one or more of the stress and strain applied to the shape memory material prior to exposure to the specified temperature. The systems and methods are configured to operate at a range of temperatures (e.g., 100 to 102 degrees Celsius). Optionally, operation at a range of temperatures includes operation at a single temperature, such as 100 degrees Celsius. Stated another way, the range of specified temperatures may include only a single temperature.

"The systems and methods for detecting specified temperatures provide efficient systems that avoid complex electronics, processors and the like coupled with thermal sensors and data loggers. Instead, a shape memory substrate is incorporated in a thermal sensor and is coupled with one or more of mechanical and conductive fracture indicators to detect and indicate that the systems have been exposed to temperatures that exceed the specified temperature. Moreover, the shape memory substrates provide reliable and accurate indication of meeting or exceeding the specified temperature as the shape memory substrates only fracture at or above the specified temperature. The systems and methods include in some examples features to facilitate one or more of visual and audible indications (e.g., alerts) that the specified temperature has been met or exceeded. For instance, the shape memory thermal sensors are coupled with reliable electronics (such as conductivity indicators) that provide visual or audio alerts. In another example, the shape memory thermal sensors are coupled with mechanical indicators, such as visible flags and audible mechanisms that are triggered through fracture of the shape memory substrate."

For more information, see this patent: Koehler, Frederick B.; Lyman, Ward D.. Shape Memory Thermal Sensors. U.S. Patent Number 8764286, filed June 8, 2011, and published online on July 1, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8764286.PN.&OS=PN/8764286RS=PN/8764286

Keywords for this news article include: Electronics, Raytheon Company.

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Source: Electronics Newsweekly


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