Application of intelligent materials to automotive parts

The Jury of the VI Accenture Awards for the Best Thesis at the University School of Engineering in Bilbao has awarded the prize to Estibaliz Medina Ugarte, graduate in industrial engineering, who has carried out the project entitled Aplicación de materiales inteligentes a piezas de automoción (Application of intelligent materials to automotive parts). She undertook the project in collaboration with Maier Technology Centre, part of the Maier S. Coop. company

The new system substitutes the classical mechanisms of air flow regulation, as regards both the direction and the flow used in ventilators for air conditioning in vehicles (one of the products produced by Maier), by mechanisms based on components made with Shape Memory Alloys (SMAs), usually known as Intelligent Materials.

The great innovation of the awarded project designed by Estibaliz Medina with the collaboration from an R+D team from the Maier company, lies in the fact that, due to the movements of dilation and contraction of Intelligent Materials (more than 1,000 times greater than a conventional metal component), a series of rectilinear displacements is achieved which are used to effect opening and closing rotation movements for ventilator valves and slats. In this way, all the conventional transmission elements such as gear assemblies, cams and cranks are eliminated.

The system, completely innovative, is outstanding for its simplicity, although the disadvantage for the time being is its relatively high cost, given that Intelligent Materials are currently used in selected sectors such as aeronautics or biomedicine. In the future, however, it is projected to that it will encompass less elitist sectors, with the concomitant cheapening of these materials.

In anticipation of this future exploitation, the Maier S. Coop. Company has applied for a patent which will guarantee the best commercial options.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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