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Tensairity structure with shape memory alloy wire ropes

AirshipsLarge roofsShape memory alloyTensairityWire rope


The invention consists of a structural element known as “Tensairity” which introduces as distinctive elements, with respect to the prior art a system of shape memory alloy (SMA), ropes with superelastic and shape memory behavior together with a control apparatus that makes the structural system is active.

Technical features

The basic conception of the Tensairity SMA structure consists of an inflatable element with a cylindrical shape, a high slenderness beam (rod) solidified along a direction of the cylinder and a pair of shape memory alloy ropes wrapped around the pneumatic element and anchored at the ends of the rod. SMA ropes are made with shape memory alloys that exhibit superelastic and / or shape recovery behavior. The proposed Tensairity is equipped with a control apparatus that allows it to vary its stiffness and damping characteristics in real time, adapting them to operational needs. The apparatus consists of a CPU, sensors that monitor the kinematic and mechanical conditions of the structure and electrical circuits that regulate the flow of current in the ropes. The latter are controlled by the Joule effect. Starting from this basic configuration, structures with more complex geometries can be created.

Possible Applications

  • For roofs of large spans subject to dynamic actions (gusts of wind);
  • For historical-artistic-monumental assets that are generally subject to structural constraints;
  • For the construction of balloons that operate as stratospheric stations.


  • Possibility of supporting huge static and dynamic actions in the face of a very low structural mass;
  • Use in the presence of multidirectional dynamic actions;
  • Reduced damping, using shape memory ropes.