Moroccan Researcher Featured on Front Page of NASAs Glenn Research Center

Casablanca – Moroccan Researcher, Dr. Othmane Benafan, receives attention from NASA’s Glenn Research Center website for the second time. Dr. Othmane Benafan, a Moroccan Materials Researcher Engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, was featured on the front page of NASA’s Glenn Research Center’s website that researches, designs, develops and tests innovative technology for aeronautics and spaceflight.Dr. Benafan who completed his PhD in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Central Florida in 2012, appears in a section of the website called, “Innovator Spotlight,” dedicated to interviewing and highlighting high achievers at NASA. The interview focuses on the use of Shape-Memory Alloys in splitting rocks. This breakthrough has great commercial possibilities and applications in different fields and industries, and is currently being developed by the Moroccan scientist.Shape Memory Alloy Rock SplittersThe Moroccan researcher explains Shape Memory Alloy as metal mixture that ‘remembers’ its original shape after being deformed, and returns to its shape after applying “an external stimulus like temperature.”The rock splitting part happens when the metal is heated and constrained from moving to its original shape. This constraint of the metal causes “a buildup of extremely large forces,” which is directed at the rock to split. This novel technology developed by Dr. Benafan can be a more efficient substitute to traditional methods used in splitting rocks and boulders, such as explosives or hydraulics-based alternatives.The technology was designed for applications pertaining to space mission such as “geologic excavation in planetary bodies such as the moon, Mars, or near-Earth asteroids.” SMA rock splinter also promises to transcend the space application to other applications involving controlled splitting of rocks. These include oil drilling, civil engineering, search-and-rescue operations and so on.Answering a question related to the weaknesses that Dr. Benafan’s effort attempt to overcome, the Tangier-native stated that previous reports have suggested the use of the technology in rock splitting. However, these reports surrendered to several challenges:“All of the reported prior work suffered from three main challenges: Activation temperature, insufficient displacement, and limited force generation dependent on commercial alloys. With this technology, our goal was to addresses these challenges.”

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