Mainland High School
Operation WingChange: #ISTF 02-0433








Prepare a 200- to 300-word history about the National Critical Technology’s technical application the team has selected.

Leonardo da Vinci drew the earliest sketches of flying machines and airfoils. His first designs had flappable wings based on those of a bird. However later, his sketches contained models with fixed wings similar to those of bats. He never, however, built successful full-scale models of his designs. In 1799, Sir George Cayley was the first to build a successful, fixed wing, model glider. The Wright brothers in 1903, achieved the first man-powered, heavier than air, controlled flight. Their airfoils were warpable, and they used pulleys to change wing shape and control flight.

QUASAM research began in the USSR in the early 1960s. The first diamond like films were grown in 1962, but they were not stable until 1978. For the next 20 years, many applications for this precursor to QUASAM were found, mainly as packaging for fragile items. When it was combined with metals, the material became invaluable to the world of electronics, having a wide range of conductivity. In 1997, QUASAM itself went into development. QUASAM differed from its precursor in that it was perfectly setup on the molecular level. QUASAM's properties include incredible strength, corrosive resistance, and the ability to withstand high temperature operations. [Dr Dorfman e-mails: Feb 2003]

Pierre and Jacques Curie experimented with tourmaline, Rochelle salt, topaz, and sugar cane around 1880. They realized these crystal materials expanded and contracted in a steady manner when voltage was applied; and when pressure was applied, they produced a voltage. While determining the cuts of these crystals they realized the one-to-one ratio between the electrical effects and mechanical stress. In 1881 a mathematician, Lippman, created a theorem that supported the Curie brother's hypothesis. In World War I, P. Langevin attempted to concoct a sonar detector using piezoelectrics. Since his efforts piezoelectrics have been used in sonar transducers, and now we also use them in smoke detectors, printers, and amplifiers.

Cite three detailed examples of research done in the past 3 to 5 years which focused on the NCT technical application the team selected. Include:

  • the funding agency,
  • the principal investigator name, and
  • the institution where the research is or was being conducted.

(1) Optimized Unmanned Aerial Vehicle with Wing Morphing for Extended Range and Endurance is being conducted by John E. Renaud at the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Renaud has received three grants to fund his research. NSF has awarded Dr. Renaud two grants, the first for Simulation Uncertainty in Multidisciplinary Design, which began on September 1, 1998 and is expected to continue until February 28, 2003, is worth approximately $416,844, and the second for Managing Uncertainty in Bilevel Robust Design Optimization, which began on September 1, 2001 and is expected to continue until July 31, 2004, is worth approximately $241,831. Dr. Renaud also received a third grant from NASA.

The NSF awards are being used to develop a collaborative optimization framework to account for and manage the "uncertainties in the performance predictions generated by the computer simulation tools used for the design of complex engineering systems" (NSF Award Abstract). Reduced product development times at reduced cost and effect is the anticipated result of this research. Dr. Renaud has combined all of his research awards to develop the variform wing, which is a wing that changes shape as fuel is consumed in order to maximize the lift to drag ratio. By maximizing this ratio, the aircraft will be able to go substantially further on the same amount or less fuel than is currently being used. Dr. Renaud is testing a particular way to change the shape of the wing - storing the fuel in balloon like bladders that interact with the structure of the wing. These balloons could be in ovals or any other geometric shape. But in order to achieve greater control over how the wing changes over time, either non-symmetric shapes or multiple bladders of different sizes and shapes could be used. Dr. Renaud is conducting these tests on unmanned aerial vehicles.

(2) Dr. J. T. Wang, PhD of Southern University was awarded a grant on April 1, 1996. The grant was for research being conducted on piezoelectrics and its long term effects. Studies of Relaxor Piezoelectric Materials, is an ongoing project, which Dr. Wang confirmed in a fax dated February 20, 2003. Approximately $1.4 million was awarded by the Office of Naval Research.

According to Wang, the objectives of the project are: to search for new ferroelectric-piezoelectric materials; to find the means to improve the function of existing materials for naval and civil applications; to provide update research topics to the students.

Dr. Wang points out that piezoelectric devices can be used for purposes other than mechanical actuators. They can also be used as a type of sonar device since piezoelectric devices can detect distant underwater signals. They are also able to generate acoustic waves that can propagate in the water for long distances. In conclusion, the research done has succeeded in finding new materials with improved dielectric properties that can lower the cost of production.

(3) Jack R. Edwards, Jr. and Hassan A. Hassan were awarded $115,000 by the NASA Langley Research Center for their research, Study of High Lift Configurations. The research was conducted from September 11, 1997 to September 10, 1999 at North Carolina State University, in which they

developed a new multi-dimensional procedure for predicting boundary layer transition onset and its extent as part of a Navier-Stokes calculation. In this approach, a model for laminar fluctuation growth is blended with a model for turbulent fluctuation growth - the blending function determines the extent of transitional flow and is a multi-dimensional quantity. This approach is currently being applied to multi-element airfoils in takeoff and landing configurations.

Based upon the research the team conducted, explain how the NCT application chosen has advanced scientific knowledge.

Piezoelectric properties were discovered in the late 1800's and have been applied to many products since then. Piezoelectric materials have made products electrical in nature instead of mechanical, making them cheaper, more efficient, and dependable.

Image courtesy of Pomona College

Piezoelectric materials are used in high quality dot printers, known as "Piezo Printer". These printers are faster than the traditional printer because their print heads are driven by electromagnetic forces and use less power than the traditional printer.

Piezoactuating systems are also used in amplifiers. The features of the amplifier with piezoelectric materials are: better voltage range, current, electrical noise, and bandwidth. Due to the variation in amplifiers, different piezoactuating systems must be produced to meet the wide range of electonic devices. The increasing attraction to highly dynamic electrical equipment has led to the growing demand for piezoactuating systems. Other amplifiers seem to be oversized and low efficient devices.

Image courtesy of Piezomechanik 

The Common Rail System uses piezoelectrics in the injectors in the engine. It is used as the tip of the injector opening and closes the valve that allows the fuel to enter the combustion chamber. The use of the piezoelectrics allows the train to operate with a better performance both economically and environmentally. They use less fuel than a standard train and it complies with the EURO-4 emissions regulations.

Image courtesy of DENSO

Adaptive optics is commonly used as a term referring to deformable mirrors, which are used to "fine tune" an image in a manner similar to glasses for a human. It is a much more complex operation, however, because it is attempting to compensate for such factors as optical distortion and refraction due to heat, atmospheric scattering of light, and other such "random" factors.  Since such precise corrections require nanoscopic adjustments, piezoelectric actuators are a perfect fit for this application.

Piezoelectric materials can also be found in many everyday items. Gas igniters, smoke alarms, and video-read heads are some examples. When used in a gas igniter, a spark is caused by the impact on a solid block of piezoelectric material, which therefore ignites the gas.

Image courtesy of

When a voltage is applied across a poled electroded piezoelectric device the material expands in the direction of the field and contracts perpendicular to the field. When a force is applied to the piezoelectric, an electric field is generated.

A piezo-sounder in a smoke alarm is made by applying a piezoelectric plate to a metal disk. When the layer of piezoelectrics tries to expand and contract, the metal disk flexes. This flex produces a movement of the center of the disc relative to the edge.

Image courtesy of

A “Unimorph” bending device – when a thin disc of piezoelectric is bonded to a metal substrate, applying a voltage causes the device to bend and produces amplified movement or sound in the direction perpendicular to the plate. The lower graphic shows a “Bimorph” bender – making a sandwich structure with an internal electrode allowing one half to push while the other pulls, giving it twice the movement of a Unimorph.

Codex Atlanticus
Wing Warping
Piezo Systems, Inc.
Optimized Unmanned Aerial Vehicle with Wing Morphing for Extended Range and Endurance
Simulation Uncertainty in Multidisciplinary Design
Managing Uncertainty in Bilevel Robust Design Optimization
Studies of Relaxor Piezoelectric Materials
Study of High Lift Configurations
Physics & Astronomy at Pomona College
European Southern Observatory
Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope

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