Dust settling on solar panels on Mars reduces the amount of sunlight accessible for conversion to electrical power. The innovative element of this project was to use a Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) to take advantage of the significant night and day temperatures on Mars. Since we could not recreate Martian weather, we used a voltage source to heat the SMA. The process was as follows: heat SMA using voltage source (day), SMA pulls brush to one side of solar panel, turn off voltage source (night), SMA cools down, force constant spring pulls the brush to the other end of panel. With an ideal SMA, the process could go on indefinitely.
I helped create the CAD models, 3D print prototypes and test the system. I was in charge of 'training' the shape memory alloys. It was a ten cycle process of heating a tightly coiled SMA in an eletrical furnace, and quenching it in cold water. This achieved desired actuation motion using electric current to simulate temperature change. Hover for animation. If the animation does not play, kindly use the video link on the left.