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including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Dutch student does 'smart' research

By Tara Carter, University Relations intern

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 11 - November 7, 1996

Traveling to the United States as a part of the Center for Intelligent Material Systems and Structures (CIMSS) Exchange Student Program, Jasper Zuidervaart was able to expand upon his research project utilizing the best facilities Virginia Tech had to offer.

Zuidervaart, a native of Amsterdam, Netherlands, was able to conduct research in the new field of "smart materials" during a brief summer research visit at Virginia Tech, thanks to the CIMSS Exchange Student Program.

Smart-materials technology creates materials that can adapt to the surroundings or environment. For instance, materials that can detect drops in temperature and automatically activate heating coils to prevent frost are being tested on airplane wings. Metals used on buildings and bridges, which detect internal flaws and fatigue, can alert repair crews or even repair themselves.

Zuidervaart worked on the shape control of composite materials using shape-memory alloys. For instance, he could change the shape of a composite beam by using fine wires of a shape-memory alloy called Nitinol embedded in the beam. He then altered the shape of the beam by controlling the amount of electrical current going through the Nitinol wires.

Developments in the area of "smart materials" research is considered to be critical in the development of future technology. But how could these shape memory alloys benefit you?

Applications of this research could include the development of airplane wings that do not need flaps. Using shape-memory technology, a section of the airplane wing could be made to bend up or down depending upon the need.

Other applications could include deformable mirrors in telescopes or the repair of automobile bumpers that could assume a pre-formed shape. Zuidervaart's research, in conjunction with other research projects underway involving these alloys, are being used to help develop materials for use in impact-resistance products, such as bullet-proof vests, bullet-proof rotor blades, and armored fuel tanks.

While at Virginia Tech, Zuidervaart worked with Victor Giurgiutiu, associate director of CIMSS. Giurgiutiu plans to continue Zuidervaart's research by beginning a research project at CIMSS involving the same subject material and projects that Zuidervaart began.

The exchange program was established in response to requests from international universities that do not have up-to-date facilities necessary to carry out extensive experimental investigations in the area of smart materials and structures. CIMSS provides the lab space and facilities needed to perform various projects. Zuidervaart was able to conduct research here while completing a graduate degree in mechanical engineering at his home school, the University of Technology Eindhoven, Netherlands.

Zuidervaart considers his project a success. "I did some good work at CIMSS and good experiments for my graduation project back home," he said. "I became an author of two papers that are due next spring, and I made contacts for the possibility of my doctoral degree."

Zuidervaart is considering whether to pursue his doctoral degree in the Netherlands or in the United States. He commented, "CIMSS had an outstanding name in my field of research. If I were to spend a lot of money on going to an institute, why not try to visit the best one?"