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Patent for Shape Memory Alloy Actuated Switch

The REAPER Lab is pleased to announce that Dr. Robert Balog (Professor, Lab Director, and SGC Assistant Director for Grid Edge Modernization) along with Dr. Ibrahim Karaman (Professor and Department Head, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Texas A&M University) and Mr. Moustafa Raslan (former MS Student of Interdisciplinary Engineering, Texas A&M University) have been awarded US Patent 11,515,101 entitled “Shape memory alloy actuated switch.”

The patented technology pertains to power and energy conversion at the grid edge and was developed as part of the SmartPVSkin project. A shape-memory alloy actuated switch (SMAAS) enables the bi-stable switching between two or more electrical circuits. The disclosed SMAAS includes a substrate, one or more electrical contacts attached to the substrate for connecting to one or more electrical circuits, and one or more electrically conductive elements for selectively connecting the one or more electrical contacts. The disclosed SMAAS also includes one or more shape-memory alloy actuators attached to the substrate. The shape-memory alloy actuators are configured to move the electrically conductive element(s) and are self-heated by passing a brief current pulse through the shape-memory alloy material. The SMAAS invention discloses a retention mechanism(s) to prevent movement of the electrically conductive element(s) after actuation. Thus, the SMAAS is efficient as is only requires energy to changing switch state and does not require holding current to maintain a particular switch configuration. This invention is important for building-integrated photovoltaic and wearable / mobile PV systems as can be miniaturized through MEMS techniques and allows efficient reconfiguration of the PV cells without the power loss and holding current associated with semiconductor switches.

For Dr. Balog, this is his twenty-first US patent that he has been awarded. Most of his patents have been assigned or licensed to the industry and have already been or are currently being commercialized.

The patent assignee is Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development. This patent was made possible by the NPRP grant # 7-299-2-124 from the Qatar National Research Fund (a member of Qatar Foundation). The statements made herein are solely the responsibility of the authors.