The present invention provides a multi-range force sensor comprising a load cell made of a shape memory alloy, a strain sensing system, a temperature modulating system, and a temperature monitoring system. The ability of the force sensor to measure contact forces in multiple ranges is effected by the change in temperature of the shape memory alloy. The heating and cooling system functions to place the shape memory alloy of the load cell in either a low temperature, low strength phase for measuring small contact forces, or a high temperature, high strength phase for measuring large contact forces. Once the load cell is in the desired phase, the strain sensing system is utilized to obtain the applied contact force. The temperature monitoring system is utilized to ensure that the shape memory alloy is in one phase or the other.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
The disclosed invention was made with government support under contract DE-AC05-96OR22464, awarded by the United States Department of Energy to Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation. The United States Government has certain rights to this invention.