Variable stiffness corrugated composite structure with shape memory polymer for morphing skin applications

Xiaobo Gong, Liwu Liu, Fabrizio Scarpa, Jinsong Leng, Yanju Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
456 Downloads (Pure)


This work presents a variable stiffness corrugated structure based on a Shape Memory Polymer (SMP) composite with corrugated laminates as reinforcement that shows smooth aerodynamic surface, extreme mechanical anisotropy and variable stiffness for potential morphing skin applications. The smart composite corrugated structure shows a low in-plane stiffness to minimize the actuation energy, but also possess high out-of-plane stiffness to transfer the aerodynamic pressure load. The skin provides an external smooth aerodynamic surface because of the one-sided filling with the SMP. Due to variable stiffness of the shape memory polymer the morphing skin exhibits a variable stiffness with a change of temperature, which can help the skin adjust its stiffness according different service environments and also lock the temporary shape without external force. Analytical models related to the transverse and bending stiffness are derived and validated using Finite Element techniques. The stiffness of the morphing skin is further investigated by performing a parametric analysis against the geometry of the corrugation and various sets of SMP fillers. The theoretical and numerical models show a good agreement and demonstrate the potential of this morphing skin concept for morphing aircraft applications. We also perform a feasibility study of the use of this morphing skin in a variable camber morphing wing baseline. The results show that the morphing skin concept exhibits sufficient bending stiffness to withstand the aerodynamic load at low speed (less than 0.3 Ma), while demonstrating a large transverse stiffness variation (up to 191 times) that helps to create a maximum mechanical efficiency of the structure under varying external conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number035052
Number of pages15
JournalSmart Materials and Structures
Issue number3
Early online date21 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • morphing aircraft
  • morphing skin
  • shape memory polymer
  • corrugated structure
  • variable stiffness


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