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This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only



Publication Details

Published in Journal of Materials Engineering and Performance, Vol. 18, issues 5-6, 2009, pp. 781-786. DOI: 10.1007/s11665-009-9431-9 Available from


It is widely acknowledged within the biomedical engineering community that shape memory alloys (SMAs) exhibit great potential for application in the actuation of upper limb prosthesis designs. These lightweight actuators are particularly suitable for prosthetic hand solutions. A four-fingered, 12 degree-of-freedom prosthetic hand has been developed featuring SMA bundle actuators embedded within the palmar structure. Joule heating of the SMA bundle actuators generates sufficient torque at the fingers to allow a wide range of everyday tasks to be carried out. Transient characterization of SMA bundles has shown that performance/response during heating and cooling differs substantially. Natural convection is insufficient to provide for adequate cooling during elongation of the actuators. An experimental test-bed has been developed to facilitate analysis of the heat transfer characteristics of the appropriately sized SMA bundle actuators for use within the prosthetic hand design. Various modes of heat sinking are evaluated so that the most effective wire-cooling solution can be ascertained. SMA bundles of varying size will be used so that a generalized model of the SMA displacement performance under natural and forced cooling conditions can be obtained. The optimum cooling solution will be implemented onto the mechanical hand framework in future work. These results, coupled with phenomenological models of SMA behavior, will be used in the development of an effective control strategy for this application in future work.