Flexible Metal Rubber™ Sensor Skin Appliqués

Period of Performance: 12/02/2008 - 11/19/2009


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Nanosonic, Inc.
158 Wheatland Drive Array
Pembroke, VA 24136
Principal Investigator


The objective of this Air Force SBIR program is to develop flexible, conformal Metal Rubber sensor skin appliqués for the distributed measurement of skin friction and pressure on aeroelastically tailored wind tunnel models. The sensor skin arrays would allow the direct mapping of shear and normal forces on model surfaces without requiring large recessed cavities within the model structure. Incorporation of buried strain sensor elements within the skin would allow decoupling of external forces and model material deformation effects. Wall shear and normal stress measurement data are important to 1) establishing boundary conditions for computational fluid dynamics analysis of air vehicle boundary layer flow and turbulence, and 2) active flight control of air platforms. During Phase I, NanoSonic would design, fabricate and test new Metal Rubber strain and air data sensor skin materials and arrays capable of surviving the thermal, mechanical, UV and chemical environment, and work with ARFL to transition the use of such sensor skins to use on wind tunnel models. The new high performance Metal Rubber materials, sensor skin arrays, and data acquisition and signal processing electronics would be evaluated using air and water flow systems at NanoSonic and in wind tunnel facilities at a partner institution BENEFIT: Applications of conformal Metal Rubber sensor skin arrays include 1) direct distributed measurement of air data on wind tunnel models to establish CFD boundary conditions as part of air vehicle development, 2) co-located measurement and mapping of skin friction and pressure on full-scale flight test aircraft, 3) conformal, skin-like 2D tactile sensor arrays for astronaut-assisted or telerobotic manipulators, and 4) distributed physiological sensor arrays of blood pressure, and heart and respiration rate for astronauts during extended space missions and extravehicular activities. Additional applications of similar conformal Metal Rubber sensor skin arrays include 1) measurement of skin friction and pressure on operational hydrocraft, 2) tactile sensor skin arrays that can flex in addition to bend, 3) 2D strain and pressure sensor arrays for biomedical instrumentation, and 3) sensors for high performance military aircraft, especially UAVs and Morphing Aircraft that require active air data sensing and flow control to optimize performance.