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DEVELOPMENT OF ADVANCED ELECTRO-RHEOLOGICAL FLUIDS

Exploitable results

Research was carried out with respect to the development and exploitation of electro-rheological (ER) fluids. These are materials that have the unique property of changing from liquid to solid and back again in a fraction of a second when a voltage is applied and removed. Various mathematical models were developed covering the main features of electro-rheological (ER) fluids. The models covered the behaviour of ER fluid when subjected to an electric field from both a microscopic and macroscopic point of view. Additional models were developed covering electrical phenomena, especially those detailing edge effects and field distribution between electrodes. These models were underpinned by extensive data collected from a range of proprietary equipment as well as equipment especially developed for the project. Basic data was used subsequently for the design of hardware and the development of improved fluids. A range of improved fluids was developed based on inorganic materials and polymeric materials. During the course of the project alternative ER fluids developed by other suppliers became available and were assessed in light of existing materials. Hardware developed included anti-vibration mounts, linear dampers, tactile arrays, and acoustic devices. These devices were augmented by power supplies and appropriate control technologies.
Research was conducted into electro-rheological (ER) fluids, both existing and improved, and to to building advanced prototype devices based on these fluids. The major effort to meet the industrial objective, covered the following areas: design requirements (this covered fluid specifications and design techniques to be used in creating ER devices, including electrode shape and geometry, shear rates, seals, access, filling, and fluid performance); high voltage power supplies and control circuits (all ER devices require controlled high voltages and work was conducted on the development of small, efficient power supplies and their associated control circuits); development of devices (hardware developed and evaluated covered anti-vibration devices, both automotive engine mounts and linear dampers, clutches, actuators, and tactile arrays); acoustic devices (the acoustic properties of ER fluids was extensively studied and a range of unusual and attractive potential applications, such as smart acoustic reflectors, were developed). Specific technical tasks covered were: mathematical models (models were developed covering the behaviour of ER fluid under steady and oscillatory shear); fluid dynamic models (models were developed covering the flow behaviour or ER fluids in a range of potential devices); electric field models (this covered both elementary electrode configurations and complex electrode designs suitable for complaint manipulators) basic fluid properties (measurements were made of theological and physical properties of a wide range of ER fluids); fluid development (fluids based on inorganic, polymeric, and liquid crystal materials were developed along with associated production technology and quality control requirements).

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