Reinforcement Learning for Active Length Control and Hysteresis Characterization of Shape Memory Alloys
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Shape Memory Alloy actuators can be used for morphing, or shape change, by controlling their temperature, which is effectively done by applying a voltage difference across their length. Control of these actuators requires determination of the relationship between voltage and strain so that an input-output map can be developed. In this research, a computer simulation uses a hyperbolic tangent curve to simulate the hysteresis behavior of a virtual Shape Memory Alloy wire in temperature-strain space, and uses a Reinforcement Learning algorithm called Sarsa to learn a near-optimal control policy and map the hysteretic region. The algorithm developed in simulation is then applied to an experimental apparatus where a Shape Memory Alloy wire is characterized in temperature-strain space. This algorithm is then modified so that the learning is done in voltage-strain space. This allows for the learning of a control policy that can provide a direct input-output mapping of voltage to position for a real wire. This research was successful in achieving its objectives. In the simulation phase, the Reinforcement Learning algorithm proved to be capable of controlling a virtual Shape Memory Alloy wire by determining an accurate input-output map of temperature to strain. The virtual model used was also shown to be accurate for characterizing Shape Memory Alloy hysteresis by validating it through comparison to the commonly used modified Preisach model. The validated algorithm was successfully applied to an experimental apparatus, in which both major and minor hysteresis loops were learned in temperature-strain space. Finally, the modified algorithm was able to learn the control policy in voltage-strain space with the capability of achieving all learned goal states within a tolerance of +-0.5% strain, or +-0.65mm. This policy provides the capability of achieving any learned goal when starting from any initial strain state. This research has validated that Reinforcement Learning is capable of determining a control policy for Shape Memory Alloy crystal phase transformations, and will open the door for research into the development of length controllable Shape Memory Alloy actuators.
Shape Memory Alloys
Kirkpatrick, Kenton C. (2009). Reinforcement Learning for Active Length Control and Hysteresis Characterization of Shape Memory Alloys. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from