Self-Contained Hybrid Electro-Hydraulic Actuators using Magnetostrictive and Electrostrictive Materials

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Hybrid electro-hydraulic actuators using smart materials along with flow rectification have been widely reported in recent years. The basic operation of these actuators involves high frequency bidirectional operation of an active material that is converted into unidirectional fluid motion by a set of valves. While theoretically attractive, practical constraints limit the efficacy of the solid-fluid hybrid actuation approach. In particular, inertial loads, fluid viscosity and compressibility combine with loss mechanisms inherent in the active material to limit the effective bandwidth of the driving actuator and the total output power. A hybrid actuator was developed by using magnetostrictive TerFeNOL-D as the active driving element and hydraulic oil as the working fluid. Tests, both with and without an external load, were carried out to measure the unidirectional performance of the actuator at different pumping frequencies and operating conditions. The maximum no-load output velocity was 84 mm/s with a 51 mm long rod and 88 mm/s with a 102 mm long rod, both noted around 325 Hz pumping frequency, while the blocked force was close to 89 N. Dynamic tests were performed to analyze the axial vibration characteristics of the Terfenol-D rods and frequency responses of the magnetic circuits. A second prototype actuator employing the same actuation principle was then designed by using the electrostrictive material PMN-32%PT as the driving element. Tests were conducted to measure the actuator performance for varying electrical input conditions and fluid bias pressures. The peak output velocity obtained was 330 mm/s while the blocked force was 63 N. The maximum volume flow rate obtained with the PMN-based actuator was more than double that obtained from the Terfenol-D-based actuator.

Theoretical modeling of the dynamics of the coupled structural-hydraulic system is extremely complex and several models have been proposed earlier. At high pumping frequencies, the fluid inertia dominates the viscous effects and the problem becomes unsteady in nature. Due to high pressures inside the actuator and the presence of entrained air, compressibility of the hydraulic fluid is important. A new mathematical model of the hydraulic hybrid actuator was formulated in time-domain to show the basic operational principle under varying operating conditions and to capture the phenomena affecting system performance. Linear induced strain behavior was assumed to model the active material. Governing equations for the moving parts were obtained from force equilibrium considerations, while the coupled inertia-compliance of the fluid passages was represented by a lumped parameter approach to the transmission line model, giving rise to strongly coupled ordinary differential equations. Compressibility of the working fluid was incorporated by using the bulk modulus. The model was then validated using the measured performance of both the magnetostrictive and electrostrictive-based hybrid actuators.