Magnetorheological Fluids and Applications to Adaptive Landing Gear for a Lightweight Helicopter

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During hard landing or crash events of a helicopter there are impact loads that can be injurious to crew and other occupants as well as damaging to the helicopter structure. Landing gear systems are the first in line to protect crew and passengers from detrimental crash loads. The main focus of this research is to improve landing gear systems of a lightweight helicopter.

Magnetorheological fluids (MRFs) provide potential solutions to several engineering challenges in a broad range of applications. One application that has been considered recently is the use of magnetorheological (MR) dampers in helicopter landing gear systems. In such application, the adaptive landing gear systems have to continuously adjust their stroking load in response to various operating conditions. In order to support this rotorcraft application, there is a necessity to validate that MRFs are qualified for landing gear applications.

First, MRF composites, synthesized utilizing three hydraulic oils certified for use in landing gear systems, two average diameters of spherical magnetic particles, and a lecithin surfactant, are formulated to investigate their performance for potential use in a helicopter landing gear. The magnetorheology of these MR fluids is characterized through a range of tests, including (a) magnetorheology (yield stress and viscosity) as a function of magnetic field, (b) sedimentation analysis using an inductance-based sensor, (c) cycling of a small-scale MR damper undergoing sinusoidal excitations (at 2.5 and 5 Hz), and (d) impact testing of an MR damper for a range of magnetic field strengths and velocities using a free-flight drop tower facility. The performance of these MR fluids was analyzed, and their behavior was compared to standard commercial MR fluids. Based on this range of tests used to characterize the MR fluids synthesized, it was shown that it is feasible to utilize certified landing gear hydraulic oils as the carrier fluids to make suitable MR fluids.

Another objective of this research is to satisfy the requirement of a helicopter landing gear damper to enable adaptive shock mitigation performance over a desired sink rate range. It was intended to maintain a constant stroking force of 17 793 N (4000 lbf) over a sink rate range of 1.8-7.9 m/s (6-26 ft/s), which is a substantial increase of the high-end of the sink rate range from 3.7 m/s (12 ft/s), in prior related work, to 7.9 m/s (26 ft/s). To achieve this increase in the high-end of the sink rate range, a spiral wave spring-assisted passive valve MR landing gear damper was developed. Drop tests were first conducted using a single MR landing gear damper. In order to maintain the peak stroking load constant over the desired sink rate range, a bang-bang current control algorithm was formulated using a force feedback signal. The controlled stroking loads were experimentally evaluated using a single drop damper test setup. To emulate the landing gear system of a lightweight helicopter, an iron bird drop test apparatus with four spiral wave spring-assisted relief valves MR landing gear dampers, was fabricated and successfully tested. The effectiveness of the proposed adaptive MR landing gear damper was theoretically and experimentally verified. The bang-bang current control algorithm successfully regulated the stroking load at 4000 lbf over a sink rate range of 6-22 ft/s in the iron bird tests, which significantly exceeds the sink rate range of the previous study (6-12 ft/s). The effectiveness of the proposed adaptive MR landing gear damper with a spiral wave spring-assisted passive valve is theoretically and experimentally verified.