US20140273790A1 - Active material enabled pressure release valves and methods of use - Google Patents

Active material enabled pressure release valves and methods of use Download PDF

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Publication number
US20140273790A1
US20140273790A1 US14/211,181 US201414211181A US2014273790A1 US 20140273790 A1 US20140273790 A1 US 20140273790A1 US 201414211181 A US201414211181 A US 201414211181A US 2014273790 A1 US2014273790 A1 US 2014273790A1
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US
United States
Prior art keywords
vane
movable
position
predetermined position
actuator
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Abandoned
Application number
US14/211,181
Inventor
Paul W. Alexander
Xiujie Gao
Alan L. Browne
Mark A. Voss
Derek L. Patterson
John N. Owens
James Holbrook BROWN
Brian D. Hu
Current Assignee (The listed assignees may be inaccurate. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the list.)
GM Global Technology Operations LLC
Dynalloy Inc
Original Assignee
GM Global Technology Operations LLC
Dynalloy Inc
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to US12/254,692 priority Critical patent/US8414366B2/en
Priority to US11458008P priority
Priority to US12/611,322 priority patent/US8708787B2/en
Application filed by GM Global Technology Operations LLC, Dynalloy Inc filed Critical GM Global Technology Operations LLC
Priority to US14/211,181 priority patent/US20140273790A1/en
Publication of US20140273790A1 publication Critical patent/US20140273790A1/en
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60HARRANGEMENTS OR ADAPTATIONS OF HEATING, COOLING, VENTILATING, OR OTHER AIR-TREATING DEVICES SPECIALLY FOR PASSENGER OR GOODS SPACES OF VEHICLES
    • B60H1/00Heating, cooling or ventilating [HVAC] devices
    • B60H1/24Devices purely for ventilating or where the heating or cooling is irrelevant
    • B60H1/26Ventilating openings in vehicle exterior; Ducts for conveying ventilating air
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60HARRANGEMENTS OR ADAPTATIONS OF HEATING, COOLING, VENTILATING, OR OTHER AIR-TREATING DEVICES SPECIALLY FOR PASSENGER OR GOODS SPACES OF VEHICLES
    • B60H1/00Heating, cooling or ventilating [HVAC] devices
    • B60H1/00642Control systems or circuits; Control members or indication devices for heating, cooling or ventilating devices
    • B60H1/00735Control systems or circuits characterised by their input, i.e. by the detection, measurement or calculation of particular conditions, e.g. signal treatment, dynamic models
    • B60H1/008Control systems or circuits characterised by their input, i.e. by the detection, measurement or calculation of particular conditions, e.g. signal treatment, dynamic models the input being air quality
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60HARRANGEMENTS OR ADAPTATIONS OF HEATING, COOLING, VENTILATING, OR OTHER AIR-TREATING DEVICES SPECIALLY FOR PASSENGER OR GOODS SPACES OF VEHICLES
    • B60H1/00Heating, cooling or ventilating [HVAC] devices
    • B60H1/24Devices purely for ventilating or where the heating or cooling is irrelevant
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60HARRANGEMENTS OR ADAPTATIONS OF HEATING, COOLING, VENTILATING, OR OTHER AIR-TREATING DEVICES SPECIALLY FOR PASSENGER OR GOODS SPACES OF VEHICLES
    • B60H1/00Heating, cooling or ventilating [HVAC] devices
    • B60H1/24Devices purely for ventilating or where the heating or cooling is irrelevant
    • B60H1/248Air-extractors, air-evacuation from the vehicle interior
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F16ENGINEERING ELEMENTS AND UNITS; GENERAL MEASURES FOR PRODUCING AND MAINTAINING EFFECTIVE FUNCTIONING OF MACHINES OR INSTALLATIONS; THERMAL INSULATION IN GENERAL
    • F16KVALVES; TAPS; COCKS; ACTUATING-FLOATS; DEVICES FOR VENTING OR AERATING
    • F16K17/00Safety valves; Equalising valves, e.g. pressure relief valves
    • F16K17/003Safety valves; Equalising valves, e.g. pressure relief valves reacting to pressure and temperature
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F16ENGINEERING ELEMENTS AND UNITS; GENERAL MEASURES FOR PRODUCING AND MAINTAINING EFFECTIVE FUNCTIONING OF MACHINES OR INSTALLATIONS; THERMAL INSULATION IN GENERAL
    • F16KVALVES; TAPS; COCKS; ACTUATING-FLOATS; DEVICES FOR VENTING OR AERATING
    • F16K17/00Safety valves; Equalising valves, e.g. pressure relief valves
    • F16K17/02Safety valves; Equalising valves, e.g. pressure relief valves opening on surplus pressure on one side; closing on insufficient pressure on one side
    • F16K17/04Safety valves; Equalising valves, e.g. pressure relief valves opening on surplus pressure on one side; closing on insufficient pressure on one side spring-loaded
    • F16K17/0413Safety valves; Equalising valves, e.g. pressure relief valves opening on surplus pressure on one side; closing on insufficient pressure on one side spring-loaded in the form of closure plates
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F16ENGINEERING ELEMENTS AND UNITS; GENERAL MEASURES FOR PRODUCING AND MAINTAINING EFFECTIVE FUNCTIONING OF MACHINES OR INSTALLATIONS; THERMAL INSULATION IN GENERAL
    • F16KVALVES; TAPS; COCKS; ACTUATING-FLOATS; DEVICES FOR VENTING OR AERATING
    • F16K17/00Safety valves; Equalising valves, e.g. pressure relief valves
    • F16K17/02Safety valves; Equalising valves, e.g. pressure relief valves opening on surplus pressure on one side; closing on insufficient pressure on one side
    • F16K17/04Safety valves; Equalising valves, e.g. pressure relief valves opening on surplus pressure on one side; closing on insufficient pressure on one side spring-loaded
    • F16K17/042Safety valves; Equalising valves, e.g. pressure relief valves opening on surplus pressure on one side; closing on insufficient pressure on one side spring-loaded with locking or disconnecting arrangements
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F16ENGINEERING ELEMENTS AND UNITS; GENERAL MEASURES FOR PRODUCING AND MAINTAINING EFFECTIVE FUNCTIONING OF MACHINES OR INSTALLATIONS; THERMAL INSULATION IN GENERAL
    • F16KVALVES; TAPS; COCKS; ACTUATING-FLOATS; DEVICES FOR VENTING OR AERATING
    • F16K31/00Actuating devices; Operating means; Releasing devices
    • F16K31/004Actuating devices; Operating means; Releasing devices actuated by piezo-electric means
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F16ENGINEERING ELEMENTS AND UNITS; GENERAL MEASURES FOR PRODUCING AND MAINTAINING EFFECTIVE FUNCTIONING OF MACHINES OR INSTALLATIONS; THERMAL INSULATION IN GENERAL
    • F16KVALVES; TAPS; COCKS; ACTUATING-FLOATS; DEVICES FOR VENTING OR AERATING
    • F16K31/00Actuating devices; Operating means; Releasing devices
    • F16K31/02Actuating devices; Operating means; Releasing devices electric; magnetic
    • F16K31/025Actuating devices; Operating means; Releasing devices electric; magnetic actuated by thermo-electric means

Abstract

A valve includes a housing and vane that is movable to a predetermined position. An actuator mechanically couples to the movable vane. The actuator is a wire device fabricated from shape memory alloy which, when activated, urges the movable vane toward the predetermined position. A power supply is configured to activate the actuator in response to an activation command and an indication that the movable vane is not in the predetermined position.

Description

    CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 12/611,322 filed on Nov. 3, 2009, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. application Ser. No. 12/254,692 filed on Oct. 20, 2008, U.S. application Ser. No. 12/611,322 claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/114,580, filed on Nov. 14, 2008, all of which are incorporated herein by reference.
  • TECHNICAL FIELD
  • This disclosure generally relates to air pressure relief valves and more particularly, to pressure relief valves and methods of regulating conditions within an interior compartment utilizing active material actuation.
  • BACKGROUND
  • It is appreciated that pressure differentials between interior spaces or compartments and the external environment can cause undesirable conditions. For example, in an automotive setting, it can cause an increase in “boom” (i.e., low level noise discomfort), required door closure force, and especially when sudden, discomfort to the occupants of the space. As such, pressure relief valves (PRVs) for reducing pressure differential, which may increase upon the closure of a swing panel (e.g., door, lift flap, rear hatch, etc.) or window, activation of the HVAC system or air bag deployment, opening of a window during movement of the vehicle, so as to cause a Bernoulli effect. These valves are generally located within an interior panel that interfaces with the compartment and the environment (e.g., the structural panel between the rear seat and trunk compartment, the structural panel between the floor and the external environment, the structural panel between the dashboard and the engine compartment, and the like). Structurally, conventional PRVs include at least one conduit fluidly coupling the interior space and exterior environment, and a movable flap (e.g., gate) disposed over an opening defined by the conduit. The flap is passively manipulated in response to the pressure differential. For example, when air pressure within the interior compartment is greater than the external air pressure, the flap opens to compensate for as well as alleviate the increased pressure; and, when the interior compartment air pressure is less than the external air pressure the movable flap covers the opening to prevent air from entering the interior compartment.
  • More recently, active PRVs, which utilize a drive mechanism to open and/or close the flap, have been developed to address some of the limitations of passive PRVs. In these configurations, pressure differential is no longer required to actuate the PRV; instead, through sensory or manual input, it is appreciated that active PRVs can be triggered by and used to address other conditions, such as poor air quality either interior or exterior to the compartment, excessive temperature, a detect by a sensor, and the operation or status of an associated system. Active PRVs, however, also present various concerns in the art. For example, prior art active PRVs, including those that utilize motors, solenoids, and active material actuation (such as presented by co-owned U.S. Pat. No. 7,204,472 A) to effect the motion of the flap, typically require constant power to maintain the valve in the manipulated condition. This invariably results in a drain upon the power supply. Moreover, with respect to prior art active material based PRVs, the lack of load limit protection resulting in an inability to avoid failure and the costs associated therewith is also of concern. For example, it is appreciated that where the opening of the flap is blocked by a foreign object, the active material element in these PRVs may overheat, become damaged, or otherwise fail.
  • SUMMARY
  • A valve includes a housing defining an opening providing fluid communication between a vehicle compartment and an external environment. The valve further includes a movable vane pivotally connected to the housing and movable to a predetermined position. An actuator is mechanically coupled to the movable vane and includes a wire device fabricated from a shape memory alloy which, when activated, urges the movable vane toward the predetermined position. A power supply is configured to activate the actuator in response to an activation command and an indication that said movable vane is not in the predetermined position.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • A preferred embodiment(s) of the disclosure is described in detail below with reference to the attached drawing figures, wherein:
  • FIG. 1 is an elevation view of a vehicle including a plurality of active-material PRVs coupled to first and second sensors, a controller and a power supply, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the disclosure;
  • FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an active PRV, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the disclosure;
  • FIG. 3 is a perspective schematic view of a PRV having a single swing-door, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present disclosure;
  • FIG. 3A is a side elevation of the PRV shown in FIG. 3, particularly illustrating the flap in a closed condition and an active-material actuator, including a shape memory wire and biasing spring, drivenly coupled thereto;
  • FIG. 3B is a side elevation of the PRV shown in FIGS. 3-3A, wherein the flap is in an open condition caused by the activation of the wire;
  • FIG. 3C is a side elevation of the PRV shown in FIGS. 3-3B, wherein the motion of the flap is obstructed by a foreign object, as the wire is being activated;
  • FIG. 3D is a side elevation of the PRV shown in FIGS. 3-3C, wherein the load limit protector is engaged to provide a secondary output path for the element, as a result of the blockage;
  • FIG. 4 is a side elevation of an active-material based PRV, particularly illustrating the pivot axis of the flap, and a ratchet based latching mechanism including a pawl, gear connector, shape memory wire and biasing spring in enlarged caption view, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present disclosure;
  • FIG. 4A is an enlarged caption view of the pivot axis and latching mechanism shown in FIG. 4, wherein the flap has been swung to an open condition, such that the pawl is engaged by the gear;
  • FIG. 4B is an enlarged caption view of the pivot axis and latching mechanism shown in FIG. 4, wherein the wire has been activated, so as to disengage the pawl and gear;
  • FIG. 4C is an enlarged caption view of the pivot axis and latching mechanism shown in FIG. 4, wherein the flap has returned to the closed condition but the wire has not been allowed to cool;
  • FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an active material based PRV having multiple horizontal pivot axes and associated flaps, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present disclosure;
  • FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an active material based PRV having multiple vertical pivot axes and associated flaps, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present disclosure;
  • FIG. 7 is a side elevation of the PRV shown in FIG. 5, and a top elevation of the PRV shown in FIG. 6, wherein a single active material actuator engages the flaps, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present disclosure;
  • FIG. 7A is a side elevation of the PRV shown in FIG. 7, wherein a plurality of separately functioning active material actuators engages the flaps to varying degrees, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present disclosure;
  • FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a single flap PRV having a pivot axis medially located, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present disclosure;
  • FIG. 8A is a side elevation view of the PRV shown in FIG. 8, wherein the flap is shown swung to a fully open condition, and in hidden-line type, back to the fully closed condition;
  • FIG. 9 is a perspective view taken from the interior of a PRV having a collapsing flap and medially located joint, a shape memory wire in a bow-string configuration, and a conduit defining a slot in which the joint is caused to translate by the bow-string wire, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present disclosure;
  • FIG. 9A is a side elevation of the PRV shown in FIG. 9, particularly illustrating the flap in a closed condition;
  • FIG. 9B is a side elevation of the PRV shown in FIG. 9, particularly illustrating the flap in a fully open condition, wherein the wire has been activated and the joint translated;
  • FIG. 10 is a flow diagram of an active-material based PRV process, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present disclosure; and
  • FIG. 11 is a side elevation view of a PRV with an actuable latching system including an SMA power-on latching system in a deactivated state and movable vanes in a closed condition;
  • FIG. 11A is a side elevation view of the PRV of FIG. 11 with the actuable latching system including the SMA power-on latching system in an activated state and movable vanes in a fully open condition;
  • FIG. 12 is a side elevation view of a PRV with an actuable latching system including a click latch device in a disengaged state and movable vanes in a closed condition;
  • FIG. 12A is a side elevation view of the PRV of FIG. 12 with the actuable latching system including the click latch device in an engaged state and movable vanes in a fully open condition;
  • FIG. 13 is a side elevation view of a PRV with an actuable latching system including a mechanical latch in a disengaged state and movable vanes in a closed condition;
  • FIG. 13A is a side elevation view of the PRV of FIG. 13 with the actuable latching system including the mechanical latch in an engaged state and movable vanes in a fully open condition;
  • FIG. 14 is a side elevation view of a PRV with an actuable latching system including an electromagnetic latch in a deactivated state and movable vanes in a closed condition;
  • FIG. 14A is a side elevation view of the PRV of FIG. 14 with the actuable latching system including the electromagnetic latch in an activated state and movable vanes in a fully open condition;
  • FIG. 15 is a side elevation view of a PRV with an actuable latching system including a mechanical over-center latch and movable vanes in a closed condition; and
  • FIG. 15A is a side elevation view of the PRV of FIG. 15 with the actuable latching system including the mechanical over-center latch and movable vanes in a fully open condition.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • The present disclosure concerns novel configurations of an active material actuated pressure relief valve (PRV) 10 and methods of manipulating a cooperatively defined condition, such as pressure differential, between an interior compartment or space 12 and an exterior environment 14. In the illustrated and preferred embodiments discussed herein active material based PRVs 10 are employed and utilized with respect to a vehicle 16, such as an automobile, truck, SUV, boat cabin, or airplane; however, it is appreciated that the advantages and benefits of the present disclosure may be used in other applications or wherever controlling conditions, such as pressure differential or air flow between fluidly coupled spaces is desired. For example, it is appreciated that the present disclosure may be applied to residential and commercial registers.
  • In the present disclosure, the use of the active materials provides a means for selectively opening and closing the pressure relief valves in the presence or absence of an air pressure differential. As such, the active pressure relief valves disclosed herein possess added functionality than previously known. For example, as will be disclosed in greater detail herein, the preferred PRV can be programmed to open upon detection of a condition or event. That is to say, the preferred PRV 10 may be programmed to open when a certain temperature within the interior compartment is exceeded, so that the PRV functions as a “smart” vent operable to selectively cool the interior compartment; and, where the vehicle includes a sensor 18 for detecting carbon monoxide concentration, for example, the active pressure relief valve could be configured to open when a certain concentration of carbon monoxide is detected within, thereby allowing excess carbon monoxide to diffuse from the interior compartment 12. Likewise, as further discussed herein, other sensors 18, such as thermocouples, thermistors, barometers, pre-impact sensors, moisture detectors, or the like, can be similarly utilized to detect other conditions and trigger PRV function.
  • It is appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that a plurality of modes of operation exists for utilizing the active PRV 10 of the present disclosure, including but not limited to a) wherein one or more active material actuators cause the valve flap(s) to open, b) wherein one or more active material actuators cause the valve flap(s) to close, c) wherein one or more active material actuators cause the valve flap(s) to both open and close, or d) wherein one or more active materials are used to selectively open and close selectable individual or subgroups of elements of a multi-element flap. Exemplary embodiments of these cases are illustrated and further described in part (II) below.
  • As used herein the term “active material” shall be afforded its ordinary meaning as understood by those of ordinary skill in the art, and includes any material or composite that exhibits a reversible change in a fundamental (e.g., chemical or intrinsic physical) property, when exposed to an external signal source. Thus, active materials shall include those compositions that can exhibit a change in stiffness properties, shape and/or dimensions in response to the activation signal, which can take the type for different active materials, of electrical, magnetic, thermal and like fields.
  • Suitable active materials for use with the present disclosure include but are not limited to shape memory materials such as shape memory alloys, and shape memory polymers. Shape memory materials generally refer to materials or compositions that have the ability to remember their original at least one attribute such as shape, which can subsequently be recalled by applying an external stimulus. As such, deformation from the original shape is a temporary condition. In this manner, shape memory materials can change to the trained shape in response to an activation signal. Exemplary shape memory materials include the afore-mentioned shape memory alloys (SMA) and shape memory polymers (SMP), as well as shape memory ceramics, electroactive polymers (EAP), ferromagnetic SMAs, electrorheological (ER) compositions, magnetorheological (MR) compositions, dielectric elastomers, ionic polymer metal composites (IPMC), piezoelectric polymers, piezoelectric ceramics, various combinations of the foregoing materials, and the like.
  • Shape memory alloys (SMAs) generally refer to a group of metallic materials that demonstrate the ability to return to some previously defined shape or size when subjected to an appropriate thermal stimulus. Shape memory alloys are capable of undergoing phase transitions in which their yield strength, stiffness, dimension and/or shape are altered as a function of temperature. The term “yield strength” refers to the stress at which a material exhibits a specified deviation from proportionality of stress and strain. Generally, in the low temperature, or martensite phase, shape memory alloys can be plastically deformed and upon exposure to some higher temperature will transform to an austenite phase, or parent phase, returning to their shape prior to the deformation. Materials that exhibit this shape memory effect only upon heating are referred to as having one-way shape memory. Those materials that also exhibit shape memory upon re-cooling are referred to as having two-way shape memory behavior.
  • Shape memory alloys exist in several different temperature-dependent phases. The most commonly utilized of these phases are the so-called Martensite and Austenite phases discussed above. In the following discussion, the martensite phase generally refers to the more deformable, lower temperature phase whereas the austenite phase generally refers to the more rigid, higher temperature phase. When the shape memory alloy is in the martensite phase and is heated, it begins to change into the austenite phase. The temperature at which this phenomenon starts is often referred to as austenite start temperature (As). The temperature at which this phenomenon is complete is called the austenite finish temperature (Af).
  • When the shape memory alloy is in the austenite phase and is cooled, it begins to change into the martensite phase, and the temperature at which this phenomenon starts is referred to as the martensite start temperature (Ms). The temperature at which austenite finishes transforming to martensite is called the martensite finish temperature (Mf). Generally, the shape memory alloys are softer and more easily deformable in their martensitic phase and are harder, stiffer, and/or more rigid in the austenitic phase. In view of the foregoing, a suitable activation signal for use with shape memory alloys is a thermal activation signal having a magnitude to cause transformations between the martensite and austenite phases.
  • Shape memory alloys can exhibit a one-way shape memory effect, an intrinsic two-way effect, or an extrinsic two-way shape memory effect depending on the alloy composition and processing history. Annealed shape memory alloys typically only exhibit the one-way shape memory effect. Sufficient heating subsequent to low-temperature deformation of the shape memory material will induce the martensite to austenite type transition, and the material will recover the original, annealed shape. Hence, one-way shape memory effects are only observed upon heating. Active materials including shape memory alloy compositions that exhibit one-way memory effects do not automatically reform, and will likely require an external mechanical force to reform the shape that was previously suitable for airflow control.
  • Intrinsic and extrinsic two-way shape memory materials are characterized by a shape transition both upon heating from the martensite phase to the austenite phase, as well as an additional shape transition upon cooling from the austenite phase back to the martensite phase. Active materials that exhibit an intrinsic shape memory effect are fabricated from a shape memory alloy composition that will cause the active materials to automatically reform themselves as a result of the above noted phase transformations. Intrinsic two-way shape memory behavior must be induced in the shape memory material through processing. Such procedures include extreme deformation of the material while in the martensite phase, heating-cooling under constraint or load, or surface modification such as laser annealing, polishing, or shot-peening. Once the material has been trained to exhibit the two-way shape memory effect, the shape change between the low and high temperature states is generally reversible and persists through a high number of thermal cycles. In contrast, active materials that exhibit the extrinsic two-way shape memory effects are composite or multi-component materials that combine a shape memory alloy composition that exhibits a one-way effect with another element that provides a restoring force to reform the original shape.
  • The temperature at which the shape memory alloy remembers its high temperature form when heated can be adjusted by slight changes in the composition of the alloy and through heat treatment. In nickel-titanium shape memory alloys, for instance, it can be changed from above about 100° C. to below about −100° C. The shape recovery process occurs over a range of just a few degrees and the start or finish of the transformation can be controlled to within a degree or two depending on the desired application and alloy composition. The mechanical properties of the shape memory alloy vary greatly over the temperature range spanning their transformation, typically providing the system with shape memory effects, superelastic effects, and high damping capacity.
  • Suitable shape memory alloy materials include, without limitation, nickel-titanium based alloys, indium-titanium based alloys, nickel-aluminum based alloys, nickel-gallium based alloys, copper based alloys (e.g., copper-zinc alloys, copper-aluminum alloys, copper-gold, and copper-tin alloys), gold-cadmium based alloys, silver-cadmium based alloys, indium-cadmium based alloys, manganese-copper based alloys, iron-platinum based alloys, iron-platinum based alloys, iron-palladium based alloys, and the like. The alloys can be binary, ternary, or any higher order so long as the alloy composition exhibits a shape memory effect, e.g., change in shape orientation, damping capacity, and the like.
  • Thus, for the purposes of this disclosure, it is appreciated that SMAs exhibit a modulus increase of 2.5 times and a dimensional change of up to 8% (depending on the amount of pre-strain) when heated above their Martensite to Austenite phase transition temperature. It is appreciated that thermally induced SMA phase changes are one-way so that a biasing force return mechanism (such as a spring) would be required to return the SMA to its starting configuration once the applied field is removed. Joule heating can be used to make the entire system electronically controllable. Stress induced phase changes in SMA are, however, two way by nature. Application of sufficient stress when an SMA is in its Austenitic phase will cause it to change to its lower modulus Martensitic phase in which it can exhibit up to 8% of “superelastic” deformation. Removal of the applied stress will cause the SMA to switch back to its Austenitic phase in so doing recovering its starting shape and higher modulus.
  • Ferromagnetic SMAs (FSMAs), which are a sub-class of SMAs, may also be used in the present disclosure. These materials behave like conventional SMA materials that have a stress or thermally induced phase transformation between martensite and austenite. Additionally FSMAs are ferromagnetic and have strong magnetocrystalline anisotropy, which permit an external magnetic field to influence the orientation/fraction of field aligned martensitic variants. When the magnetic field is removed, the material may exhibit complete two-way, partial two-way or one-way shape memory. For partial or one-way shape memory, an external stimulus, temperature, magnetic field or stress may permit the material to return to its starting state. Perfect two-way shape memory may be used for proportional control with continuous power supplied. One-way shape memory is most useful for rail filling applications. External magnetic fields are generally produced via soft-magnetic core electromagnets in automotive applications, though a pair of Helmholtz coils may also be used for fast response.
  • Shape memory polymers (SMPs) generally refer to a group of polymeric materials that demonstrate the ability to return to a previously defined shape when subjected to an appropriate thermal stimulus. Shape memory polymers are capable of undergoing phase transitions in which their shape is altered as a function of temperature. Generally, SMPs have two main segments, a hard segment and a soft segment. The previously defined or permanent shape can be set by melting or processing the polymer at a temperature higher than the highest thermal transition followed by cooling below that thermal transition temperature. The highest thermal transition is usually the glass transition temperature (Tg) or melting point of the hard segment. A temporary shape can be set by heating the material to a temperature higher than the Tg or the transition temperature of the soft segment, but lower than the Tg or melting point of the hard segment. The temporary shape is set while processing the material at the transition temperature of the soft segment followed by cooling to fix the shape. The material can be reverted back to the permanent shape by heating the material above the transition temperature of the soft segment.
  • For example, the permanent shape of the polymeric material may be a wire presenting a substantially straightened shape and defining a first length, while the temporary shape may be a similar wire defining a second length less than the first. In another embodiment, the material may present a spring having a first modulus of elasticity when activated and second modulus when deactivated.
  • The temperature needed for permanent shape recovery can be set at any temperature between about −63° C. and about 120° C. or above. Engineering the composition and structure of the polymer itself can allow for the choice of a particular temperature for a desired application. A preferred temperature for shape recovery is greater than or equal to about −30° C., more preferably greater than or equal to about 0° C., and most preferably a temperature greater than or equal to about 50° C. Also, a preferred temperature for shape recovery is less than or equal to about 120° C., and most preferably less than or equal to about 120° C. and greater than or equal to about 80° C.
  • Suitable shape memory polymers include thermoplastics, thermosets, interpenetrating networks, semi-interpenetrating networks, or mixed networks. The polymers can be a single polymer or a blend of polymers. The polymers can be linear or branched thermoplastic elastomers with side chains or dendritic structural elements. Suitable polymer components to form a shape memory polymer include, but are not limited to, polyphosphazenes, poly(vinyl alcohols), polyamides, polyester amides, poly(amino acid)s, polyanhydrides, polycarbonates, polyacrylates, polyalkylenes, polyacrylamides, polyalkylene glycols, polyalkylene oxides, polyalkylene terephthalates, polyortho esters, polyvinyl ethers, polyvinyl esters, polyvinyl halides, polyesters, polylactides, polyglycolides, polysiloxanes, polyurethanes, polyethers, polyether amides, polyether esters, and copolymers thereof. Examples of suitable polyacrylates include poly(methyl methacrylate), poly(ethyl methacrylate), ply(butyl methacrylate), poly(isobutyl methacrylate), poly(hexyl methacrylate), poly(isodecyl methacrylate), poly(lauryl methacrylate), poly(phenyl methacrylate), poly(methyl acrylate), poly(isopropyl acrylate), poly(isobutyl acrylate) and poly(octadecyl acrylate). Examples of other suitable polymers include polystyrene, polypropylene, polyvinyl phenol, polyvinylpyrrolidone, chlorinated polybutylene, poly(octadecyl vinyl ether) ethylene vinyl acetate, polyethylene, poly(ethylene oxide)-poly(ethylene terephthalate), polyethylene/nylon (graft copolymer), polycaprolactones-polyamide (block copolymer), poly(caprolactone)dimethacrylate-n-butyl acrylate, poly(norbornyl-polyhedral oligomeric silsequioxane), polyvinylchloride, urethane/butadiene copolymers, polyurethane block copolymers, styrene-butadiene-styrene block copolymers, and the like.
  • Thus, for the purposes of this disclosure, it is appreciated that SMPs exhibit a dramatic drop in modulus when heated above the glass transition temperature of their constituent that has a lower glass transition temperature. If loading/deformation is maintained while the temperature is dropped, the deformed shape will be set in the SMP until it is reheated while under no load under which condition it will return to its as-molded shape. While SMPs could be used variously in block, sheet, slab, lattice, truss, fiber or foam forms, they require continuous power to remain in their lower modulus state. Thus, they are suited for reversible shape setting of the insert 10.
  • Suitable piezoelectric materials include, but are not intended to be limited to, inorganic compounds, organic compounds, and metals. With regard to organic materials, all of the polymeric materials with non-centrosymmetric structure and large dipole moment group(s) on the main chain or on the side-chain, or on both chains within the molecules, can be used as suitable candidates for the piezoelectric film. Exemplary polymers include, for example, but are not limited to, poly(sodium 4-styrenesulfonate), poly(poly(vinylamine)backbone azo chromophore), and their derivatives; polyfluorocarbons, including polyvinylidenefluoride, its co-polymer vinylidene fluoride (“VDF”), co-trifluoroethylene, and their derivatives; polychlorocarbons, including poly(vinyl chloride), polyvinylidene chloride, and their derivatives; polyacrylonitriles, and their derivatives; polycarboxylic acids, including poly(methacrylic acid), and their derivatives; polyureas, and their derivatives; polyurethanes, and their derivatives; bio-molecules such as poly-L-lactic acids and their derivatives, and cell membrane proteins, as well as phosphate bio-molecules such as phosphodilipids; polyanilines and their derivatives, and all of the derivatives of tetramines; polyamides including aromatic polyamides and polyimides, including Kapton and polyetherimide, and their derivatives; all of the membrane polymers; poly(N-vinyl pyrrolidone) (PVP) homopolymer, and its derivatives, and random PVP-co-vinyl acetate copolymers; and all of the aromatic polymers with dipole moment groups in the main-chain or side-chains, or in both the main-chain and the side-chains, and mixtures thereof.
  • Piezoelectric materials can also include metals selected from the group consisting of lead, antimony, manganese, tantalum, zirconium, niobium, lanthanum, platinum, palladium, nickel, tungsten, aluminum, strontium, titanium, barium, calcium, chromium, silver, iron, silicon, copper, alloys including at least one of the foregoing metals, and oxides including at least one of the foregoing metals. Suitable metal oxides include SiO.sub.2, Al.sub.2O.sub.3, ZrO.sub.2, TiO.sub.2, SrTiO.sub.3, PbTiO.sub.3, BaTiO.sub.3, FeO.sub.3, Fe.sub.3O.sub.4, ZnO, and mixtures thereof and Group VIA and IIB compounds, such as CdSe, CdS, GaAs, AgCaSe.sub.2, ZnSe, GaP, InP, ZnS, and mixtures thereof. Preferably, the piezoelectric material is selected from the group consisting of polyvinylidene fluoride, lead zirconate titanate, and barium titanate, and mixtures thereof.
  • Suitable magnetorheological fluid materials include, but are not intended to be limited to, ferromagnetic or paramagnetic particles dispersed in a carrier fluid. Suitable particles include iron; iron alloys, such as those including aluminum, silicon, cobalt, nickel, vanadium, molybdenum, chromium, tungsten, manganese and/or copper; iron oxides, including Fe.sub.2O.sub.3 and Fe.sub.3O.sub.4; iron nitride; iron carbide; carbonyl iron; nickel and alloys of nickel; cobalt and alloys of cobalt; chromium dioxide; stainless steel; silicon steel; and the like. Examples of suitable particles include straight iron powders, reduced iron powders, iron oxide powder/straight iron powder mixtures and iron oxide powder/reduced iron powder mixtures. A preferred magnetic-responsive particulate is carbonyl iron, preferably, reduced carbonyl iron.
  • The particle size should be selected so that the particles exhibit multi-domain characteristics when subjected to a magnetic field. Diameter sizes for the particles can be less than or equal to about 1,000 micrometers, with less than or equal to about 500 micrometers preferred, and less than or equal to about 100 micrometers more preferred. Also preferred is a particle diameter of greater than or equal to about 0.1 micrometer, with greater than or equal to about 0.5 more preferred, and greater than or equal to about 10 micrometers especially preferred. The particles are preferably present in an amount between about 5.0 to about 50 percent by volume of the total MR fluid composition.
  • Suitable carrier fluids include organic liquids, especially non-polar organic liquids. Examples include, but are not limited to, silicone oils; mineral oils; paraffin oils; silicone copolymers; white oils; hydraulic oils; transformer oils; halogenated organic liquids, such as chlorinated hydrocarbons, halogenated paraffins, perfluorinated polyethers and fluorinated hydrocarbons; diesters; polyoxyalkylenes; fluorinated silicones; cyanoalkyl siloxanes; glycols; synthetic hydrocarbon oils, including both unsaturated and saturated; and combinations including at least one of the foregoing fluids.
  • The viscosity of the carrier component can be less than or equal to about 100,000 centipoise, with less than or equal to about 10,000 centipoise preferred, and less than or equal to about 1,000 centipoise more preferred. Also preferred is a viscosity of greater than or equal to about 1 centipoise, with greater than or equal to about 250 centipoise preferred, and greater than or equal to about 500 centipoise especially preferred.
  • Aqueous carrier fluids may also be used, especially those including hydrophilic mineral clays such as bentonite or hectorite. The aqueous carrier fluid may include water or water including a small amount of polar, water-miscible organic solvents such as methanol, ethanol, propanol, dimethyl sulfoxide, dimethyl formamide, ethylene carbonate, propylene carbonate, acetone, tetrahydrofuran, diethyl ether, ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, and the like. The amount of polar organic solvents is less than or equal to about 5.0% by volume of the total MR fluid, and preferably less than or equal to about 3.0%. Also, the amount of polar organic solvents is preferably greater than or equal to about 0.1%, and more preferably greater than or equal to about 1.0% by volume of the total MR fluid. The pH of the aqueous carrier fluid is preferably less than or equal to about 13, and preferably less than or equal to about 9.0. Also, the pH of the aqueous carrier fluid is greater than or equal to about 5.0, and preferably greater than or equal to about 8.0.
  • Natural or synthetic bentonite or hectorite may be used. The amount of bentonite or hectorite in the MR fluid is less than or equal to about 10 percent by weight of the total MR fluid, preferably less than or equal to about 8.0 percent by weight, and more preferably less than or equal to about 6.0 percent by weight. Preferably, the bentonite or hectorite is present in greater than or equal to about 0.1 percent by weight, more preferably greater than or equal to about 1.0 percent by weight, and especially preferred greater than or equal to about 2.0 percent by weight of the total MR fluid.
  • Optional components in the MR fluid include clays, organoclays, carboxylate soaps, dispersants, corrosion inhibitors, lubricants, extreme pressure anti-wear additives, antioxidants, thixotropic agents and conventional suspension agents. Carboxylate soaps include ferrous oleate, ferrous naphthenate, ferrous stearate, aluminum di- and tri-stearate, lithium stearate, calcium stearate, zinc stearate and sodium stearate, and surfactants such as sulfonates, phosphate esters, stearic acid, glycerol monooleate, sorbitan sesquioleate, laurates, fatty acids, fatty alcohols, fluoroaliphatic polymeric esters, and titanate, aluminate and zirconate coupling agents and the like. Polyalkylene diols, such as polyethylene glycol, and partially esterified polyols can also be included.
  • Suitable MR elastomer materials include, but are not intended to be limited to, an elastic polymer matrix including a suspension of ferromagnetic or paramagnetic particles, wherein the particles are described above. Suitable polymer matrices include, but are not limited to, poly-alpha-olefins, natural rubber, silicone, polybutadiene, polyethylene, polyisoprene, and the like.
  • Electroactive polymers include those polymeric materials that exhibit piezoelectric, pyroelectric, or electrostrictive properties in response to electrical or mechanical fields. An example of an electrostrictive-grafted elastomer with a piezoelectric poly(vinylidene fluoride-trifluoro-ethylene) copolymer. This combination has the ability to produce a varied amount of ferroelectric-electrostrictive, molecular composite systems. These may be operated as a piezoelectric sensor or even an electrostrictive actuator.
  • Materials suitable for use as an electroactive polymer may include any substantially insulating polymer or rubber (or combination thereof) that deforms in response to an electrostatic force or whose deformation results in a change in electric field. Exemplary materials suitable for use as a pre-strained polymer include silicone elastomers, acrylic elastomers, polyurethanes, thermoplastic elastomers, copolymers including PVDF, pressure-sensitive adhesives, fluoroelastomers, polymers including silicone and acrylic moieties, and the like. Polymers including silicone and acrylic moieties may include copolymers including silicone and acrylic moieties, polymer blends including a silicone elastomer and an acrylic elastomer, for example.
  • Materials used as an electroactive polymer may be selected based on one or more material properties such as a high electrical breakdown strength, a low modulus of elasticity—(for large or small deformations), a high dielectric constant, and the like. In one embodiment, the polymer is selected such that is has an elastic modulus at most about 100 MPa. In another embodiment, the polymer is selected such that is has a maximum actuation pressure between about 0.05 MPa and about 10 MPa, and preferably between about 0.3 MPa and about 3 MPa. In another embodiment, the polymer is selected such that is has a dielectric constant between about 2 and about 20, and preferably between about 2.5 and about 12. The present disclosure is not intended to be limited to these ranges. Ideally, materials with a higher dielectric constant than the ranges given above would be desirable if the materials had both a high dielectric constant and a high dielectric strength. In many cases, electroactive polymers may be fabricated and implemented as thin films. Thicknesses suitable for these thin films may be below 50 micrometers.
  • As electroactive polymers may deflect at high strains, electrodes attached to the polymers should also deflect without compromising mechanical or electrical performance. Generally, electrodes suitable for use may be of any shape and material provided that they are able to supply a suitable voltage to, or receive a suitable voltage from, an electroactive polymer. The voltage may be either constant or varying over time. In one embodiment, the electrodes adhere to a surface of the polymer. Electrodes adhering to the polymer are preferably compliant and conform to the changing shape of the polymer. Correspondingly, the present disclosure may include compliant electrodes that conform to the shape of an electroactive polymer to which they are attached. The electrodes may be only applied to a portion of an electroactive polymer and define an active area according to their geometry. Various types of electrodes suitable for use with the present disclosure include structured electrodes including metal traces and charge distribution layers, textured electrodes including varying out of plane dimensions, conductive greases such as carbon greases or silver greases, colloidal suspensions, high aspect ratio conductive materials such as carbon fibrils and carbon nanotubes, and mixtures of ionically conductive materials.
  • Materials used for electrodes of the present disclosure may vary. Suitable materials used in an electrode may include graphite, carbon black, colloidal suspensions, thin metals including silver and gold, silver filled and carbon filled gels and polymers, and ionically or electronically conductive polymers. It is understood that certain electrode materials may work well with particular polymers and may not work as well for others. By way of example, carbon fibrils work well with acrylic elastomer polymers while not as well with silicone polymers.
  • Turning to the structural configuration of the disclosure, there is shown various embodiments of an active pressure relief valve 10 that utilizes active material actuation in FIGS. 1-10. In general, the PRV 10 includes a housing (or conduit) 20 defining an opening 22 (FIG. 2); a hinge 24 rotate-ably mounted to the housing 20; a rigid flap 26 in pivotable communication with the hinge 24; and a control connector 28 in operative communication with an active material based actuator 30. The housing 20 may be fixedly mounted to the vehicle 16, as shown in FIG. 1, or other structure. Though singularly described and illustrated, it is appreciated that a plurality of PRVs may be utilized, and separately controlled with respect to the interior compartment (FIG. 1).
  • The opening 22 is in fluid communication with the interior compartment 12 and the external environment 14. In this manner, selective opening and closing of the flap 26 can be used to regulate fluid flow between the interior compartment 12 and the external environment 14. To further prevent fluid flow, the PRV 10 may further include an elastic seal disposed about the opening 22, and intermediate the flap 26 and housing 20, so as to be compressed thereby. Also as further described below, multiple flaps operating in unison or individually, or other adjustment means, can be employed to variably control fluid communication.
  • A power supply 32 is in operative communication with the actuator 30 and operable to provide a suitable activation signal (FIG. 1). The power supply 32 may be automatically demanded via remote control, and regulated by a PWM, regulator, or power resistor in-series. For example, in the case of actuators including thermally activated shape memory material, a current can be supplied by the power supply 32 to effect Joule heating, when demanded by a vehicle occupant. Alternatively, the power supply 32 may come from an ambient energy or condition source, such as radiation from the Sun, so that the PRV 10 is passively activated.
  • Referring to FIGS. 3-3D, there is shown a PRV 10 having a rigid flap 26 pivotally mounted along the top of the housing 20, so as to define a pivot axis, designated “p” in FIGS. 3 and 3A. Connector 28 presents a swing arm that defines a pivot point concentrically aligned with the pivot axis of the flap 26, a long arm 34, and a short arm 36. The long arm 34 coextends with the flap 26 and defines a first arm length equal to the longitudinal dimension of the flap 26. The short arm 36 presents a second arm length preferably less than half, more preferably less than one-quarter, and most preferably less than one-eighth of the first arm length.
  • An active material element 38 of defined length is attached to the short arm 36. In FIGS. 3-3D, the element 38 consists of a shape memory wire that is attached at one end to the short arm 36 and to the housing 20 or vehicle 16 at the other end. Upon activation by the power supply 32, the length of the wire 38 decreases causing the rigid flap 26 to pivot about its axis. Upon discontinuing the activation signal, the wire 38 returns to its original dimension or undergoes a plastic deformation, depending on the active material employed to effect closure of the flap 26. As shown in FIG. 3A-b, once activated the wire 38 is caused to swing as a result of rotation by the short arm 36; to prevent stress accumulation and/or buckling at the other end, it is desirous to pivotally connect the wire 38 and housing 20.
  • It is appreciated that the preferred wire 38 presents stress and strain values of 170 MPa and 2.5%, respectively, so as to result in a sealing force of 2N, when activated, and that between 2.5 to 12 V, and 2 amps of current are required to actuate the PRV 10.
  • More preferably, as shown in FIG. 3B an extension spring 40 is also attached to the short arm 36 and configured to produce the plastic deformation and/or effect closure of the flap 26, so that the flap 26 is maintained against the housing 20 in the power-off state (alternatively, a torsion spring may be disposed about the pivot axis and configured to act in the same manner). The bias spring 40 is able to stretch the shape memory wire 38, so as to cause stress-induced transformation to a martensite phase, in addition to that caused by cooling.
  • With respect to case b) above, it is appreciated that the afore-mentioned configurations could be reversed, wherein a compression spring works to drive the flap 26 open and the wire 38 works to selectively close the valve. With respect to case c), it is also appreciated that two antagonistic active material actuators 30, one which would open, and another which would close the flap 26 (or alternatively, a single actuator having a two-way effect), could be utilized.
  • An aspect of the disclosure concerns the inclusion of a load limit protector 52 to provide strain/stress relief capability, and thereby increase the life of the element 38. In this regard, it is appreciated that when an active material undergoes transformation, but is prevented from undergoing the resultant physical change (e.g. heating a stretched SMA wire above its transformation temperature but not allowing the wire to revert to its unstressed state), detrimental affects to the materials performance and/or longevity can occur. In the present disclosure, for example, it is foreseeable that the flap 26 could by constrained from moving when actuated, either by a foreign object 54 (FIGS. 3C-d) or another form of impediment (e.g., a deformed out body panel blocking motion or ice/mud build up on the valve flap). As such, to prevent damage to the actuator element 38, a secondary output path to the triggered motion is preferably included, which allows the element 38 to respond to the activation signal while the condition of flap 26 remains unchanged.
  • For example, the wire 38 may be further connected to an extension spring 56 placed in series therewith, opposite the connector 28 (FIGS. 3A-d). The spring 56 is stretched to a point where its applied preload corresponds to the load level where it is appreciated that the actuator 30 would begin to experience excessive force if blocked. As a result, activation of the actuator 30 will first apply a force trying to open the flap 26, but if the force level exceeds the preload in the spring (e.g., the flap 26 is blocked), the wire 38 will instead further stretch the spring, thereby providing an output path for the wire strain, and preserving the integrity of the active PRV 10.
  • More preferably, and as shown in FIGS. 3-3D, the protector 52 may further include a lever 58 intermediate the element 38 and spring 56. The lever 58 defines first and second arms 60,62 and a pivot axis. The element 38 is attached to one of the arms, so as to be spaced from the axis a first distance. The spring 56 is attached to the other arm and spaced from the axis a second distance greater than the first, so as to provide mechanical advantage.
  • If overload protection fails, it is also appreciated that a mechanical link, such as a cable attached to the interior of a PRV 10 that could be accessed and pulled to close the PRV 10 should it fail in a partially to fully open condition, especially in the case of embodiments with a bias spring opening and active material based closing mechanisms.
  • The PRV 10 preferably includes a latching mechanism, such as the type shown in FIGS. 4-4C. In this configuration the mechanism includes a pawl 44 resistively pivotable about an axis between engaged and disengaged positions, and the connector 28 presents a rotatable gear 46 defining at least one tooth configured to catch the pawl 44 when in the engaged position. More preferably, the gear 46 has a plurality of teeth so as to be able to engage the pawl 44 at a plurality of incremental positions resulting in variable degrees of opening (e.g., between 17° and 52°) for the flap 26. In the illustrated embodiment, a biasing latch spring 48 attached to the pawl 44 is configured to cause the mechanism 42 to engage the flap 26, and a second active material element (e.g., shape memory wire) 50 presenting an activation force greater than the spring modulus of the spring 48 is oppositely attached to the pawl 44. As shown in FIG. 4B, the second element 50 is operable to cause the mechanism 42 to disengage and release the flap 26, when activated. Alternatively, it is appreciated that the roles of the element 50 and spring 48 may be reversed by switching their connection points relative to the pawl 44; that is to say the second element 50 could be configured to cause the mechanism 42 to engage the flap 26 when activated, and the biasing spring 48 presents a spring modulus less than the activation force, so as to be configured to cause the mechanism 42 to disengage and release the flap 26, only when the second element 50 is deactivated.
  • Based on these configurations, actuation times of less than five seconds, an approximate lifetime of 100,000 actuations, and a working environment between −40 to 90° C. have been observed.
  • In other embodiments, FIGS. 5-7A depict PRVs 10 having a plurality of horizontal or vertically oriented flaps 26 that are each pivotally connected to the housing 20 so as to define an equal plurality of pivot axes. A single actuator 30 may be connected to each of the flaps 26 and configure to effect congruent motion, as previously described and shown in FIG. 7, or more preferably, a separate active material actuator 30 may control movement of an associative flap 26 as shown in FIG. 7A. Again, the flaps 26 are preferably biased so as to sealingly close a portion of the opening, when the associative element 38 is deactivated. It is also within the ambit of the disclosure to variously employ rotating, folding, sliding or iris-type flaps 26 consistent with the disclosure.
  • In another embodiment, the flap 26 may present a medial pivot axis, so as to be able to rotate about its longitudinal mid-line, as shown in FIGS. 8 and 8A. In this configuration it is appreciated that half of the flap extends within the housing 20 when in the open condition resulting in less protrusion into the compartment 12. It is contemplated that other active material based actuators, such as a torque tube coupled with an antagonistically biased torsion spring, may be implemented in this configuration.
  • Finally, in yet another preferred embodiment, the housing 20 may define a medial slot 66 and include first and second flap engaging cross-members 68,70 opposite the slot 66 (FIGS. 9-9B). The flap 26, in this configuration, is collapsible about a medial pivot joint formed by a hinge 24. The joint is disposed within the slot 66. The members 68,70 cause the flap 26 to collapse by folding, when the joint is caused to translate towards the interior of the housing 20. In this configuration, a shape memory wire 38 is preferably coupled to the joint and defines a bow-string configuration (FIGS. 9A,b). As a result of trigonometric relationship, when the wire 38 is activated, the bow-string configuration causes the joint to translate a distance greater than the wire displacement (i.e., change in length). A return spring 72 presenting a spring modulus less than the activation force of the wire 38 is disposed within the slot 66 and configured to maintain engagement with, so as to bias the joint outward. Finally, a torsion spring 74 is coaxially aligned with the hinge 24, attached to the flap 26, and configured such that as the flap 26 is caused to collapse, i.e., by the translation of the joint inward, the spring 74 is caused to store potential energy. When the wire 38 is deactivated and the joint is caused to travel outward, the torsion spring 74 releases its energy, so as to further cause the flap 26 to returns to and be sealed in the closed condition.
  • In operation, selective opening of the rigid flap 26 can be effected by a controller 64 communicatively coupled to the power supply 32, and sensor(s) 18 and/or input device. The controller 64 can be preprogrammed to have the power supply 32 deliver the activation signal using algorithms based on sensor input, as previously described and exemplary represented in FIG. 10. For example, air pressure can be monitored with a sensor to indicate when a window is opened during vehicle movement, when an air bag is actuated, or upon door closing, or the like. Alternatively, other sensor inputs such a temperature indicating that the interior temperature of the vehicle has exceeded a pre-set temperature threshold, and the like can be employed. Still, other sensor inputs can include a gas sensor such as may be desired for detecting carbon monoxide concentration within the interior compartment.
  • In other embodiments, it is appreciated that the operation (either opening or closing) of the PRV 10 could be triggered by the actuation of an HVAC system operable to treat the interior compartment 12, or by receiving telematics information cooperatively determined from a GPS or other positioning system and a map database (FIG. 10); both of which being also communicatively coupled to the controller 64, and suitable for implementation in an automotive setting, for example.
  • FIGS. 11-15 schematically depict an airflow control device, e.g., the aforementioned pressure release valve 10, including embodiments of an actuable latch. The pressure release valve 10 includes housing 20 having one or more openings 22 therethrough. Each opening 22 has a corresponding rigid flap or movable vane(s) 26 that pivotably mounts to the housing 20 at hinge point 24. A spring device 23 is arranged thereon having a spring bias that urges a closing force on the movable vane(s) 26 relative to the housing 20. The spring device 23 preferably has a spring modulus sufficient to cause the movable vane(s) 26 to maintain an environmental seal across the opening 22 of the pressure relief valve 10. A linear actuator 30 includes one end connected to the movable vane(s) 26 and a distal end connected to the housing 20. The linear actuator is preferably a wire device fabricated from shape memory alloy (SMA) materials, referred to hereafter as SMA wire 30. The aforementioned controller 64 controls the electric power supply 32 to control Joule power to the SMA wire 30 in response to an activation command. When the power supply 32 transfers electric power to the SMA wire 30 sufficient to increase its temperature and effect a phase transformation in the SMA material, strain is induced in the SMA wire 30, causing it to contract in length and correspondingly urge the movable vane(s) 26 to an open position, thus permitting air flow across the pressure release valve 10. The open position may be a fully-opened position, e.g., the movable vane(s) 26 has moved to its maximum travel or rotation point. Alternatively, the open position may be a partially-opened position that is less than a maximum travel or rotation point of the movable vane(s) 26.
  • When the movable vane(s) 26 is in the closed position, there is no air flow through the opening(s) 22. When the movable vane(s) 26 is in the open position, there is air flow and pressure equalization through the opening(s) 22. The amount of air flow and pressure equalization through the opening(s) 22 is dependent upon the magnitude of the commanded open position. The actuable latch is configured to latch and hold the movable vane(s) 26 when they are urged to the open position. Alternatively, or in combination, the actuable latch can be configured to latch and hold the movable vane(s) 26 when they are urged to the closed position.
  • The activation command to activate the pressure release valve 10 to urge the movable vane(s) 26 to the open position may be in anticipation of a forthcoming event, such as closing a swing panel, e.g., a door, window, or trunk lid. The power supply 32 provides electric power to the SMA wire 30, causing it to contract longitudinally, thus opening the movable vane(s) 26. There can be an indeterminate time period between the activation command to open the movable vane(s) 26 and occurrence of the anticipated forthcoming event. During the time delay, the actuable latch holds the movable vane(s) 26 at the open position. The actuable latch preferably deactivates subsequent to occurrence of the anticipated forthcoming event, allowing the spring device to urge the movable vane(s) 26 to the closed position as the SMA wire 30 distends.
  • FIGS. 11 and 11A show the pressure release valve 10 with a first embodiment of the actuable latch to retain the movable vane(s) 26 at the open position, including an SMA power-on latching system. In this embodiment, the power supply 32 provides electric power to the SMA wire 30 to open the movable vane(s) 26 to a desired orientation corresponding to an activation command from the controller 64. An activation command is understood to effect a desired response from the power supply and thus encompasses activation of the power supply and deactivation of the power supply, for example in accordance with respective states of a binary activation command. The power supply 32 then maintains electric power to the SMA wire 30 to maintain the temperature of the SMA wire 30 at or above a transition temperature once the movable vane(s) 26 reach their desired orientation or position by continuing to supply electric power to the SMA wire 30. As long the power supply 32 supplies the electric power, the SMA wire 30 is hot and the movable vane(s) 26 remains open. In one embodiment, the power supply 32 controls electric power in response to input from a micro-switch that is triggered when the movable vane(s) 26 reaches the open position, thus deactivating the electric power. When the SMA wire 30 cools and distends and allows the movable vane(s) 26 to retract from the micro-switch, thus activating the electric power supply 32 and restoring electric power to the SMA wire 30. This process operates so long as the activation command to open the pressure release valve 10 is active, thereby periodically maintaining the phase transformation in the shape memory alloy to retain the movable vane in the open position. A photo-interrupter or a Hall-effect sensor can be used in place of a micro-switch to periodically maintain the phase transformation in the shape memory alloy to retain the movable vane in the open position. To effect closing of the movable vane(s) 26 subsequent to occurrence of the anticipated forthcoming event, the power supply 32 discontinues electric power to the SMA wire 30, allowing it to cool and distend. A return force from the spring 23 effects closing of the movable vane(s) 26. Likewise, a loss of vehicle electric power will result in closing of the movable vane(s) 26. This includes the power supply 32 configured to transfer electric power to the linear actuator including the SMA wire 30 to effect a phase transformation in the shape memory alloy of the SMA wire 30 to urge the movable vane(s) 26 to one of the open position and the closed position in response to the activation command, wherein the open position includes a partially-opened position.
  • FIGS. 12 and 12A show the pressure release valve 10 with another embodiment of the actuable latch to retain the movable vane(s) 26 at the open position, including a click latch device 33. In this embodiment, the power supply 32 provides electric power to the SMA wire 30 to open the movable vane(s) 26 to a desired orientation or position. A protruding element 31, e.g., a rigid pin protrudes outwardly from one of the movable vane(s) 26 and automatically engages the click latch device 33 as the protruding element 31 rotates with the opening of movable vane(s) 26. When the electric power to the SMA wire 30 is discontinued, the movable vane(s) 26 is held in place by action of the spring 23 on the movable vane(s) 26 with the protruding element 31 locking into the click latch device 33 as the SMA wire 30 cools. To effect closing of the movable vane(s) 26, the power supply 32 subsequently provides electric power to the SMA wire 30, contracting the SMA wire 30 and further rotating the movable vane(s) 26 and disengaging the protruding element 31 from the click latch device 33. The electric power to the SMA wire 30 is again discontinued, allowing the SMA wire 30 to cool and close the movable vane(s) 26.
  • FIGS. 13 and 13A show the pressure release valve 10 with another embodiment of the actuable latch to retain the movable vane(s) 26 at the open position, including a mechanical latch 33′. The mechanical latch 33′ is pivotably attached to the housing 20 at a pivot point, and is attached to a tension spring 27 at a second point, and is attached to a second SMA wire 30′ at a third point. The tension spring 27 and the second SMA wire 30′ exert opposed forces across the pivot point. When the second SMA wire 30′ is not actuated, the mechanical latch 33′ is in an open, unlatched position. In this embodiment, the power supply 32 provides electric power to the SMA wire 30 to open the movable vane(s) 26 at or beyond a desired orientation or position. A protruding element 31′ protruding outwardly from one of the movable vane(s) 26 rotates beyond the mechanical latch 27. A second power supply 32′ provides electric power to the second SMA wire 30′, inducing strain in the SMA material and causing it to contract, overcoming the spring force of the tension spring 27 such that the mechanical latch 33′ engages the protruding element 31′ and holds the movable vane(s) 26 in the open position. The power supply 32 may be subsequently deactivated. The second power supply 32′ continues to provide electric power to the second SMA wire 30′ sufficient to retain the mechanical latch 33′ in the closed condition. To effect closing of the movable vane(s) 26, the second power supply 32′ discontinues providing electric power to the second SMA wire 30′, allowing it to distend such that the spring force of the tension spring 27 urges the mechanical latch 33′ to disengage the protruding element 31′, with a return force from the spring 23 effecting closing of the movable vane(s) 26. Likewise, a loss of vehicle electric power will result in closing of the movable vane(s) 26.
  • FIGS. 14 and 14A show the pressure release valve 10 with another embodiment of an actuable latch to retain the movable vane(s) 26 at the open position, including an electromagnetic latch. The electromagnetic latch includes an electromagnet 35 mounted on a portion of the housing 20 and a target 37 mounted on a portion of one of the movable vane(s) 26. The target 37 includes ferrous metal and is mounted on the movable vane(s) 26 in such a manner that it is contiguous to the electromagnet 35 when the movable vane(s) 26 is opened. In this embodiment, the power supply 32 provides electric power to the SMA wire 30 to open the movable vane(s) 26 to a desired orientation or position. The electromagnet 35 is activated with electrical power originating from an electromagnet power supply 32A and controlled by controller 64 communicatively coupled to the electromagnet power supply 32A. When the target 37 approaches or contacts the activated electromagnet 35, the electromagnetic force holds the target 37 and hence the movable vane(s) 26 in the open position. Power from the power supply 32 to the SMA wire 30 can be discontinued. To effect closing of the movable vane(s) 26, the electromagnet power supply 32A deactivates the electromagnet 35, allowing it to release the electromagnetic hold on the target 37. A return force from the spring 23 effects closing of the movable vane(s) 26. Likewise, a loss of vehicle electric power will result in closing of the movable vane(s) 26.
  • FIGS. 15 and 15A show the pressure release valve 10 with another embodiment of the actuable latch to retain the movable vane(s) 26 at the open position, including a mechanical over-center latch. The mechanical over-center latch in one embodiment includes a pivot arm 21 rigidly coupled to the movable vane(s) 26, both which pivotably connect to the housing 20 at a pivot point 24. The pivot arm 21 includes a second rotatable end that coterminally couples to a first end of a spring element 23A and ends of a first SMA wire 30A and a second SMA wire 30B. A second end of the spring element 23A connects to the housing 20 at a spring attachment point P. Distal ends of the first SMA wire 30A and the second SMA wire 30B are coupled to the housing 20 at attachment points A and B, respectively. Attachment points A and B are left of and right of a line C, respectively. Line C is defined by the pivot point 24 and the spring attachment point P. The force of the spring element 23A rotates the pivot arm 21 and the movable vane(s) 26 around the pivot point 24, with the rotation interrupted by one of a first and second stop 39A and 39B respectively. In operation, when the pivot arm 21 is in a first position at the first stop 39A with the movable vane(s) 26 in a closed position, the first power supply 32 provides electric power to the first SMA wire 30A, causing it to exert tension on the second rotatable end of the pivot arm 21 and moving it over-center in a second direction. The first power supply 32 can be deactivated, allowing the first SMA wire 30A to cool and distend. The force of the spring element 23A rotates the pivot arm 21 and the movable vane(s) 26 around the pivot point 24 to the second stop 39B, opening the movable vane(s) 26. In operation when the pivot arm 21 is in the second position at the second stop 39B with the movable vane(s) 26 in the open position, the second power supply 32′ provides electric power to the second SMA wire 30B, causing it to exert tension on the second rotatable end of the pivot arm 21 and moving it over-center in the first direction. The second power supply 32′ can be deactivated, allowing the second SMA wire 30B to cool and distend. The force of the spring element 23 rotates the pivot arm 21 and the movable vane(s) 26 around the pivot point 24 to the first stop 39A, moving the movable vane(s) 26 to the closed position. Alternatively, the mechanical over-center latch includes colocating the pivot arm 21 and the movable vane(s) 26.
  • Ranges disclosed herein are inclusive and combinable (e.g., ranges of “up to about 25 wt %, or, more specifically, about 5 wt % to about 20 wt %”, is inclusive of the endpoints and all intermediate values of the ranges of “about 5 wt % to about 25 wt %,” etc.). “Combination” is inclusive of blends, mixtures, alloys, reaction products, and the like. Furthermore, the terms “first,” “second,” and the like, herein do not denote any order, quantity, or importance, but rather are used to distinguish one element from another, and the terms “a” and “an” herein do not denote a limitation of quantity, but rather denote the presence of at least one of the referenced item. The modifier “about” used in connection with a quantity is inclusive of the state value and has the meaning dictated by context, (e.g., includes the degree of error associated with measurement of the particular quantity). The suffix “(s)” as used herein is intended to include both the singular and the plural of the term that it modifies, thereby including one or more of that term (e.g., the colorant(s) includes one or more colorants). Reference throughout the specification to “one embodiment”, “another embodiment”, “an embodiment”, and so forth, means that a particular element (e.g., feature, structure, and/or characteristic) described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment described herein, and may or may not be present in other embodiments. In addition, it is to be understood that the described elements may be combined in any suitable manner in the various embodiments.
  • Suitable algorithms, processing capability, and sensor inputs are well within the skill of those in the art in view of this disclosure. This disclosure has been described with reference to exemplary embodiments; it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope of the disclosure. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings of the disclosure without departing from the essential scope thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the disclosure not be limited to a particular embodiment disclosed as the best mode contemplated for carrying out this disclosure, but that the disclosure will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims.

Claims (11)

1. A valve, comprising:
a housing defining an opening providing fluid communication between a vehicle compartment and an external environment;
a movable vane pivotally connected to the housing and movable to a predetermined position;
an actuator mechanically coupled to said movable vane, said actuator comprising a wire device fabricated from shape memory alloy which when activated urges the movable vane toward said predetermined position; and
a power supply configured to activate said actuator in response to an activation command and an indication that said movable vane is not in said predetermined position.
2. The valve of claim 1, wherein said predetermined position comprises one of a partially-opened position, a fully-opened position, and a closed position.
3. The valve of claim 1, wherein said indication that said movable vane is not in said predetermined position is provided by one of a micro-switch, a photo-interrupter and a hall-effect sensor.
4. The valve of claim 1 further comprising:
a plurality of movable vanes, each pivotally connected to the housing and movable to respective predetermined positions; and
a plurality of actuators, each mechanically coupled to a corresponding one of said plurality of movable vanes, each of said plurality of actuators comprising a respective wire device fabricated from shape memory alloy which when activated urges the corresponding movable vane toward said respective predetermined position.
5. The valve of claim 1 further comprising:
a plurality of movable vanes, each pivotally connected to the housing and movable to respective predetermined positions;
said actuator mechanically coupled to each of said plurality of movable vanes which when activated urges each of said plurality of movable vanes toward said respective predetermined position.
6. The valve of claim 1, wherein the movable vane comprises a medial pivot axis.
7. A valve, comprising:
a movable vane;
an actuator mechanically coupled to said vane, said actuator comprising a wire device fabricated from shape memory alloy which when activated urges the vane toward a predetermined position;
vane position sensing means providing a position signal indicative of vane position; and
a power supply configured to activate and deactivate said actuator in response to an activation command and said position signal.
8. The valve of claim 7, wherein said power supply activates said actuator when said activation command is active and said position signal indicates the vane is not in the predetermined position.
9. The valve of claim 7, wherein said power supply deactivates said actuator when said position signal indicates the vane is in the predetermined position.
10. The valve of claim 8, wherein said power supply deactivates said actuator when said activation command is active and said position signal indicates the vane is in the predetermined position.
11. Method for maintaining a vane in a predetermined position, said vane mechanically coupled to a wire device comprising a shape memory alloy which when activated urges the vane toward said predetermined position, said method comprising;
monitoring an activation command;
monitoring vane position;
activating said wire device when vane position is not said predetermined position and said activation command is active.
US14/211,181 2008-10-20 2014-03-14 Active material enabled pressure release valves and methods of use Abandoned US20140273790A1 (en)

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