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Shapeshifting Metals Could Be New Future of Aviation Technology

A feature story for Wired (12/3, Stockton) reports on the potential use of shapeshifting metals on airplane wings, which “affects virtually every aspect of flight, and making them from metal that can change its shape in midair could make your journey smoother, safer, and more efficient.”

NASA Glenn Research Center Engineer Othmane Benafan is quoted saying, “If you look at conventional aircraft technology, you have so many moving parts,” which are “essential,” and “how pilots steer, reduce turbulence, take off, land, and basically do everything else besides glide aimlessly.” However, “actuators, cables, motors, lubricant, hydraulic gear, and other bits needed move those parts around take up weight and space – precious resources on any aircraft,” and one design alternative “is to move those wing parts using shapeshifting metals.”

The article quotes Boeing engineer Jim Mabe saying, “Parts made from shape memory alloys are typically 10 to 20 percent the size and weight of a conventional part.”