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Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems 1 (2007) 430–442

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A model of the relay valve used in an air brake system
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S.V. Natarajan, S.C. Subramanian
1
, S. Darbha, K.R. Rajagopal

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA
Received 10 November 2006; accepted 13 November 2006
Abstract
The mathematical model governing the response of the relay valve in an air brake leads to a hybrid system in which different
governing equations apply to different phases of the response of the air brake. To accurately describe the brake’s response
characteristics it is imperative to take into account this hybrid structure, and it is to this aspect of the problem that this paper
is addressed. The safe operation of any vehicle on the road depends, amongst other things, on a properly operating brake system.
Most commercial vehicles such as trucks, tractor–trailers, buses, etc., are equipped with an air brake system. Any defect in a brake
system can degrade its performance seriously and can lead to accidents. It is desirable and also important to develop systems that
can control and diagnose air brake systems in order to both sustain and improve their performance. One approach to develop such
systems is by obtaining a model of the air brake system and then using the same in the design process. The air brake system
currently used in commercial vehicles can be broadly divided into a pneumatic subsystem and a mechanical subsystem. One of
the main components in the pneumatic subsystem is the relay valve which operates the brakes on the rear axles of a tractor and
the axles of a trailer. A relay valve has different modes of operation and the pressure response of the relay valve can be naturally
described as the response of a hybrid system. In this article, we develop a hybrid dynamical model to predict the pressure response
of the relay valve. An air brake testing facility has been set up at Texas A&M University and this model will be corroborated
against experimental data obtained from the same.
c 2007 Published by Elsevier Ltd
Keywords: Hybrid systems; Air brakes; Relay valve; Treadle valve; Pneumatic system; Pressure transients
1. Introduction
The terminology “hybrid” system conjures up different images in the minds of those engaged in research in
different areas. To one mathematically inclined it might imply different types of equations describing the different
regimes of response of a system, the problem of interest, with a rule for switching between these sets of equations. For
example, the problem could be described by a partial differential equation, ordinary differential equation, an integral
equation or for that matter an algebraic equation in these different regimes of operation, the change taking place by
virtue of some set of criteria. To one with a practical bent, the same terminology suggests different modes of response
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The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the National Science Foundation under grant CMMI-0556343.

Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: sepulshan@gmail.com (S.V. Natarajan), shankarram@iitm.ac.in (S.C. Subramanian), dswaroop@tamu.edu (S. Darbha),
krajagopal@tamu.edu (K.R. Rajagopal).
1
Present address: Department of Engineering Design, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, Chennai 600036, India.
1751-570X/$ - see front matter c 2007 Published by Elsevier Ltd
doi:10.1016/j.nahs.2006.11.003
S.V. Natarajan et al. / Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems 1 (2007) 430–442 431
of some specific device. Of course, there is an intricate connection between these two images; one is a mathematical
representation of the other. Hybrid systems are systems whose response has a mixed character and is comprised of
diverse elements, for example analog and digital devices or different parts of the device that can be described by
continuous or discrete systems. It is not necessary that the diversity be that stark. Any problem that is described in
different regimes of response by different equations (possibly of the same kind) would qualify to be a hybrid system.
To highlight the extent and reach of hybrid systems, we consider an example that is not usually thought of as a
hybrid system. The example in question is the inelastic response exhibited by solids. In the case of the traditional
plasticity of metals, the body responds as an elastic solid until a certain strain is realized; beyond this strain the body
behaves in a different manner, i.e., inelastically. The criterion for switching from one mode of response to the other
is referred to as the “yield condition”. One does not think of such inelastic response as the response of a “hybrid”
system. Our discussion of the same here is to merely point to the fact that many of the types of responses of systems
that we commonly come across in everyday life are hybrid systems.
The example that we are interested in is the response of a pneumatic air brake. We shall see that the set of equations
that describe the braking action consists of a system of ordinary differential equations, its members representing the
different modes of response of the brake system. We note that there are three phases to the operation of a pneumatic
air brake. The first is the “apply” phase when the brake is applied, the second is the “hold” phase when the brake is
held in its place, and third is the “release” phase when the brake is released. In each of these phases, we see that the
brake system is governed by a different set of ordinary differential equations.
A properly operating brake system is essential for the safe operation of vehicles on the road. In this article, we shall
focus on air brake systems which are widely used in commercial vehicles like trucks, tractor–trailers, buses, etc. In
fact, in the United States, most tractor–trailer vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) over 19,000 lb,
most single trucks with a GVWR of over 31,000 lb, most transit and inter-city buses, and about half of all school buses
are equipped with air brake systems [1]. These brake systems use compressed air as the energy transmitting medium
to actuate the foundation brakes mounted on the axles.
The air brake system currently found in commercial vehicles is made up of two subsystems — the pneumatic
subsystem and the mechanical subsystem. The pneumatic subsystem includes the compressor, storage reservoirs,
treadle valve (or the brake application valve), brake lines, relay valves, quick release valve, brake chambers, etc. The
mechanical subsystem starts from the brake chambers and includes push rods, slack adjusters, S-cams, brake pads
and brake drums. One of the most important differences between a hydraulic brake system (found in passenger cars)
and an air brake system is in their mode of operation. In a hydraulic brake system, the force applied by the driver
on the brake pedal is transmitted through the brake fluid to the wheel cylinders mounted on the axles. The driver
obtains a sensory feedback in the form of pressure on his/her foot. If there is a leak in the hydraulic brake system,
this pressure will decrease and the driver can detect it through the relatively easy motion of the brake pedal. In an air
brake system, the application of the brake pedal by the driver meters out compressed air from a supply reservoir to the
brake chambers. The force applied by the driver on the brake pedal is utilized in opening certain ports in the treadle
valve and is not used to pressurize air in the brake system. This leads to a lack of variation in the sensory feedback to
the driver in the case of leaks, worn brake pads and other defects in the brake system.
Air brake systems can degrade significantly with use and need periodic inspection and maintenance [2]. As a result,
periodic maintenance inspections are performed by fleet owners and roadside enforcement inspections are carried out
by state and federal inspection teams. The performance requirements of brakes in newly manufactured and “on-the-
road” commercial vehicles in the United States are specified by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS)
121 [3] and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR) Part 393 [4], respectively. These regulations
specify the stopping distance, deceleration and brake force that should be achieved when the vehicle is braked from
an initial speed of 20 mph. Due to the difficulty in carrying out such tests on the road, equivalent methods have been
developed to inspect the brake system. A chronology of the development of the various commercial vehicle brake
testing procedures used in the United States can be found in [5].
Inspection techniques that are currently used to monitor the air brake system can be broadly divided into two
categories — “visual inspections” and “performance-based inspections” [6]. Visual inspections include observing the
stroke of the push rod, thickness of the brake linings, checking for wear in other components and detecting leaks in
the brake system through aural and tactile means. They are subjective, time-consuming and difficult on vehicles with a
low ground clearance since an inspector has to go underneath a vehicle to check the brake system. In fact, the average
time required for a typical current roadside inspection of a commercial vehicle is 30 min, with approximately half
432 S.V. Natarajan et al. / Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems 1 (2007) 430–442
of the time spent on inspecting brakes [7]. Performance-based inspections involve the measurement of the braking
force/torque, stopping distance, brake pad temperature, etc. A description of two performance-based brake testers —
the roller dynamometer brake tester and the flat plate brake tester — and the associated failure criteria when an air
brake system is tested with them can be found in [8]. It is appropriate to point out that, in an appraisal of the future
needs of the trucking industry [9], the authors call for the development of improved methods of brake inspections.
Also, in recent years, studies have been carried out to develop “Adaptive Cruise Control” (ACC) systems or
“Autonomous Intelligent Cruise Control” (AICC) systems. The objective of these systems is to maintain a constant
distance between two consecutive vehicles by mainly controlling the engine throttle and the brake system. While
most of the research on ACC systems has focused on passenger cars, the benefits of implementing such systems on
heavy trucks are significant [10]. A typical ACC system for heavy trucks controls the engine throttle, the transmission
and the brake system and will be interfaced with existing systems like the Antilock Braking System (ABS), Traction
Control System (TCS), etc. A typical truck ABS monitors the speed of the wheels and modulates the brake system
pressure in the event of an impending wheel lock-up [11]. The ABS consists of an Electronic Control Unit (ECU) that
receives signals from the wheel speed sensors and processes this information to regulate the brake system pressure
through modulator valves. It should be noted that ABS does not control the treadle valve to regulate the pressure in the
brake system. It reduces the brake system pressure that is “commanded” by the driver when it senses an impending
wheel lock-up. It cannot provide a higher pressure than that corresponding to the pedal input from the driver.
It is important to note that the ABS modulates the brake system pressure only under conditions when a wheel
lock-up is impending. The ABS is disengaged during “normal” braking operations. In fact, it has been pointed out
in [12] that ABS is “passive during the vast majority of braking operations”. During such braking operations, the
pressure of air in the brake system is the level that is commanded by the driver through the motion of the brake pedal.
Hence, in order to implement ACC systems on commercial vehicles it is necessary to develop control schemes that
will automatically regulate the brake system pressure during all braking operations.
Motivated by the above issues, our overall objective is to develop model-based control and diagnostic systems
for air brake systems. Such a model of the air brake system should correlate the pressure transients in all the brake
chambers of the air brake system with the treadle valve plunger displacement (i.e., the displacement of the brake
pedal) and the supply pressure of air provided from the reservoirs to the treadle and relay valves. We have already
developed a model [13], and control and diagnostic schemes [14,15] based on this model, for the configuration of
the air brake system where the primary circuit of the treadle valve is directly connected to one of the two front brake
chambers. This model predicts the pressure transients in a front brake chamber during a given brake application with
the input data being the treadle valve plunger displacement and the supply pressure to the treadle valve. In order to
extend these control and diagnostic schemes, a model should be developed to predict the response of all the brake
chambers in the air brake system. One of the steps involved in obtaining a model for the entire air brake system is to
develop a model to predict the response of the relay valve, and this is the focus of this article.
We will show in the subsequent sections that a relay valve has three phases (or modes) of operation and the
evolution of pressure in each of the modes is different. The transition from one mode to another depends primarily on
the pressure in the brake chamber and for this reason, it can be naturally modeled as a hybrid system.
This article is organized as follows. In Section 2, we present a brief description of the air brake system and the
experimental setup that has been constructed at Texas A&M University. A hybrid dynamical model of the relay
valve to predict its pressure response is derived in Section 3. We present the equations governing the motion of
the mechanical components in the relay valve and the flow of air in the system. This model is corroborated against
experimental data and the results are provided in Section 4.
2. A brief description of the air brake system and the experimental setup
A layout of the air brake system found in a typical tractor is presented in Fig. 1. An engine-driven air compressor is
used to compress air and the compressed air is collected in storage reservoirs. The pressure of the compressed air in the
reservoirs is regulated by a governor. Compressed air is supplied from these reservoirs to the treadle and relay valves.
The driver applies the brake by pressing the brake pedal on the treadle valve. This action meters the compressed air
from the supply port of the treadle valve to its delivery port. Then, the compressed air travels from the delivery port
of the treadle valve through air hoses to the relay valve (referred to as the service relay valve in Fig. 1) and the quick
release valve and finally to the brake chambers mounted on the axles.
S.V. Natarajan et al. / Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems 1 (2007) 430–442 433
Fig. 1. A general layout of a truck air brake system.
Fig. 2. The S-cam foundation brake.
The S-cam foundation brake, found in more than 85% of the air-braked vehicles in the United States [1], is
illustrated in Fig. 2. Compressed air metered from the storage reservoirs enters the brake chamber and acts against the
diaphragm, generating a force resulting in the motion of the push rod. The motion of the push rod serves to rotate,
through the slack adjuster, a splined shaft on which a cam in the shape of an ‘S’ is mounted. The ends of two brake
shoes rest on the profile of the S-cam and the rotation of the S-cam pushes the brake shoes outwards so that the brake
pads make contact with the rotating drum. This action results in the deceleration of the rotating drum. When the brake
pedal is released by the driver, air is exhausted from the brake chamber and the push rod strokes back into the brake
chamber thereby rotating the S-cam in the opposite direction. The contact between the brake pads and the drum is
now broken and the brake is thus released.
A schematic of the experimental setup at Texas A&M University is provided in Fig. 3. Two “Type-20” brake
chambers (having an effective cross-sectional area of 20 in
2
) are mounted on a front axle of a tractor and two “Type-
30” brake chambers (having an effective cross-sectional area of 30 in
2
) are mounted on a fixture designed to simulate
the rear axle of a tractor. The air supply to the system is provided by means of two compressors and storage reservoirs.
The reservoirs are chosen such that their volume is more than twelve times the volume of the brake chambers that they
provide air to, as required by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 121 [3]. Pressure regulators are
mounted at the delivery ports of the reservoirs to control the supply pressure to the treadle valve and the relay valve.
A cross-sectional view of the treadle valve used in the experiments is illustrated in Fig. 4. The treadle valve consists
of two circuits — the primary circuit and the secondary circuit. The delivery port of the primary circuit is connected
434 S.V. Natarajan et al. / Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems 1 (2007) 430–442
Fig. 3. A schematic of the experimental facility.
to the control port of the relay valve and the delivery ports of the relay valve are connected to the two rear brake
chambers. The relay valve has a separate port for obtaining compressed air supply from the reservoir. The delivery
port of the secondary circuit is connected to the Quick Release Valve (QRV) and the delivery ports of the QRV are
connected to the two front brake chambers.
The treadle valve is actuated by means of a pneumatic actuator and compressed air is supplied to this actuator
from the storage reservoirs through a pressure regulator. The displacement of the treadle valve plunger is measured
by means of a displacement transducer. A pressure transducer is mounted at the entrance of each of the four brake
chambers by means of a custom designed and fabricated pitot tube fixture. A displacement transducer is mounted
on each of the two front brake chamber push rods through appropriately fabricated fixtures in order to measure the
push rod stroke. All the transducers are interfaced with a connector block through shielded cables. The connector
block is connected to a PCI-MIO-16E-4 Data Acquisition (DAQ) board [16] (mounted on a PCI slot inside a desktop
computer) that collects the data during brake application and release. An application program is used to collect and
store the data in the computer.
3. Modeling the response of the relay valve
In this section, we shall present a description of the model of the relay valve. We adopt a lumped parameter
approach in the development of this model. Friction at the sliding surfaces in the treadle and relay valves is neglected
S.V. Natarajan et al. / Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems 1 (2007) 430–442 435
Fig. 4. A sectional view of the treadle valve.
since they are well lubricated. The springs present in these valves have been experimentally found to be nearly linear
in the range of their operation (except the rubber graduating spring used in the treadle valve, see Fig. 4) and the spring
constants have been determined from experimental data. Other parameters such as areas, initial deflections, etc., are
measured and used in the model.
In this article, our objective is to develop a model for predicting the pressure transients in the rear brake chambers
actuated by the relay valve during the brake application process. The relay valve is controlled by means of the
compressed air delivered by the primary circuit of the treadle valve during a brake application. We shall consider
the configuration of the brake system where the delivery port of the primary circuit of the treadle valve is connected
to the control port of the relay valve. Compressed air is provided from the storage reservoirs to the relay valve at its
supply port and one of the delivery ports of the relay valve is connected to a rear brake chamber. We shall measure the
pressure transients at the primary delivery port of the treadle valve and in the rear brake chamber in our experiments.
The pressure measured at the primary delivery port of the treadle valve will be provided as input to the numerical
scheme that solves the model equations developed to predict the pressure transients in the rear brake chamber.
When the driver presses the brake pedal, the primary piston in the treadle valve (see Fig. 4) first closes the primary
exhaust port (by moving a distance equal to x
pt
) and then opens up the primary inlet port (x
pp
> x
pt
, x
pp
being the
displacement of the primary piston from its initial position). This action serves to meter the compressed air from the
reservoir to the primary delivery port. We shall refer to this phase as the “apply phase”. When the pressure in the
primary circuit increases to a level such that it balances the force applied by the driver, the primary piston closes the
primary inlet port with the exhaust port also remaining closed (x
pp
= x
pt
). We shall refer to this phase as the “hold
phase”. When the driver releases the brake pedal, the primary piston return spring forces the primary piston to its
initial position. This action opens the exhaust port (x
pp
< x
pt
) and air is exhausted from the primary delivery port to
the atmosphere. We shall refer to this phase as the “exhaust phase”. A detailed derivation of the model of the treadle
valve can be found in [13].
A schematic of the cross-sectional view of the relay valve used in our experimental setup is presented in Fig. 5.
The compressed air from the delivery port of the primary circuit of the treadle valve enters the control port of the relay
valve. The resulting force pushes the relay valve piston and the exhaust port of the relay valve is closed when the relay
valve piston moves a distance equal to x
r pt
. Once the pre-loads on the relay valve assembly gasket are overcome,
the inlet port of the relay valve is opened (x
r pp
> x
r pt
, x
r pp
being the displacement of the relay valve piston from
its initial position). Compressed air is now metered from the supply port of the relay valve to its delivery port and
subsequently to the rear brake chambers. This is the apply phase associated with the operation of the relay valve.
When the pressure in the delivery port of the relay valve increases to a level such that it balances the forces acting on
436 S.V. Natarajan et al. / Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems 1 (2007) 430–442
Fig. 5. A sectional view of the relay valve.
the relay valve piston due to the compressed air from the treadle valve, the inlet port of the relay valve is closed with
its exhaust port also remaining closed (x
r pp
= x
r pt
). This is the hold phase associated with the operation of the relay
valve. When the brake pedal is released by the driver, air is exhausted from the primary circuit of the treadle valve
and consequently from the control port of the relay valve. Due to the presence of compressed air in the delivery port
of the relay valve, the relay valve piston is pushed back to its initial position and this opens the exhaust port of the
relay valve (x
r pp
< x
r pt
). Thus, air is exhausted from the delivery port of the relay valve to the atmosphere. This is
the exhaust phase associated with the operation of the relay valve.
The equation of motion governing the mechanics of the operation of the relay valve piston and the relay valve
assembly gasket during the apply and the hold phases is given by
(M
r pp
+ M
rv
)
_
d
2
x
r pp
(t )
dt
2
_
+ K
rv
x
r pp
(t ) = K
rv
x
r pt
+ P
pd
(t )A
r pp
− P
rd
(t )(A
r pp1
− A
rv2
) − P
rs
A
rv1
− F
krvi
− P
atm
A
r pp2
, (1)
where M
r pp
and M
rv
denote respectively the mass of the relay valve piston and the relay valve assembly gasket, x
r pp
denotes the displacement of the relay valve piston from its initial position, x
r pt
is the distance traveled by the relay
valve piston before it closes the relay valve exhaust port, K
rv
is the spring constant of the relay valve assembly return
spring, F
krvi
is the pre-load on the same, A
r pp
is the net area of the relay valve piston exposed to the pressurized air
at the control port of the relay valve, A
r pp1
is the net area of the relay valve piston exposed to the pressurized air at
the delivery port of the relay valve, A
r pp2
is the net area of the relay valve piston exposed to the exhaust port of the
relay valve, A
rv1
is the net cross-sectional area of the relay valve assembly gasket exposed to the pressurized air at
the supply port of the relay valve, A
rv2
is the net cross-sectional area of the relay valve assembly gasket exposed to
the pressurized air at the delivery port of the relay valve, P
pd
is the pressure of air at the delivery port of the primary
circuit of the treadle valve, P
rs
is the pressure of air being supplied to the relay valve, P
rd
is the pressure of air at the
delivery port of the relay valve and P
atm
is the atmospheric pressure.
The mass of the relay valve piston is of the order of around 0.1 kg and the magnitude of the spring and pressure
forces is found to be of the order of 10
2
N. Thus, the acceleration required for the inertial forces to be comparable
with the spring force and the pressure force terms has to be of the order of 10
2
–10
3
m/s
2
, which is not the case. Hence
the inertial forces are neglected and the above equation reduces to
K
rv
x
r pp
(t ) = K
rv
x
r pt
+ P
pd
(t )A
r pp
− P
rd
(t )(A
r pp1
− A
rv2
) − P
rs
A
rv1
− F
krvi
− P
atm
A
r pp2
. (2)
The equation of motion of the relay valve piston during the exhaust phase is given by
M
r pp
_
d
2
x
r pp
dt
2
_
= P
pd
A
r pp
− P
rd
(A
r pp1
+ A
r pp2
). (3)
S.V. Natarajan et al. / Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems 1 (2007) 430–442 437
Fig. 6. The simplified visualization of the pneumatic subsystem under consideration.
Neglecting inertial forces, the above equation reduces to
P
pd
A
r pp
= P
rd
(A
r pp1
+ A
r pp2
). (4)
Next, we will consider the flow of air in the portion of the brake system under study. The relay valve opening
is modeled as a nozzle. For the flow through a restriction, if the ratio of the cross-sectional area of the upstream
section to the cross-sectional area of the restriction is 4.4 or higher, the approach velocity to this restriction can be
neglected and the upstream properties (such as pressure, enthalpy, temperature, etc.) can be taken to be the upstream
total or stagnation properties [17]. In our case, the minimum ratio of the cross-sectional area of the supply chamber
of the relay valve to the cross-sectional area of the relay valve opening (the restriction) is found to be more than this
value. Hence, we can consider the valve opening as a nozzle and take the properties in the supply chamber of the
valve as the stagnation properties at the inlet section of the nozzle. The flow through the nozzle is assumed to be
one-dimensional and isentropic. We also assume that the fluid properties are uniform at all sections in the nozzle.
Air is assumed to behave like an ideal gas with constant specific heats. Under the above assumptions, the part of the
pneumatic subsystem under consideration can be visualized as illustrated in Fig. 6.
The energy equation for the flow of air through the nozzle under the above assumptions can be written as [18]
h +
1
2
u
2
= h
o
, (5)
where h
o
is the specific stagnation enthalpy at the entrance section of the nozzle, h is the specific enthalpy at the exit
section of the nozzle and u is the magnitude of the velocity of air at the exit section of the nozzle.
For isentropic flow of an ideal gas with constant specific heats, the pressure (P), density (ρ) and temperature (T)
are related by
P
ρ
γ
= constant,
_
_
P
_
γ −1
γ
_
T
_
_
= constant, (6)
where γ is the ratio of specific heats.
The mass flow rate of air from the relay valve opening at any instant of time (denoted by ˙ m
b
) is given by
˙ m
b
= ρu A
p
, (7)
where A
p
is the cross-sectional area of the valve opening. This is the rate at which air is accumulating in the hoses
and the brake chamber once the relay valve is actuated. Since we lump the properties of air inside the hose and the
brake chamber, the mass of air in the brake chamber at any instant of time is obtained from the ideal gas equation of
state as
m
b
=
P
rd
V
b
RT
rd
, (8)
438 S.V. Natarajan et al. / Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems 1 (2007) 430–442
Fig. 7. A sectional view of the brake chamber.
where V
b
is the volume of air in the brake chamber and T
rd
is the temperature of air in the brake chamber at that
instant of time.
Let us now consider the mechanics of the operation of the brake chamber. A cross-sectional view of the brake
chamber is shown in Fig. 7. When the brake is applied, the brake chamber diaphragm starts to move only after a
minimum threshold pressure is reached. This pressure is required to overcome the pre-loads on the diaphragm. When
this pressure is attained in the brake chamber, the diaphragm moves such that the push rod is pushed out of the brake
chamber. Once the brake pads contact the brake drum and steady state is reached, the volume of air in the brake
chamber will be the maximum during that particular brake application. Thus, the volume of air in the brake chamber
at any instant of time during the brake application process is given by
V
b
=
_
_
_
V
o1
if x
b
= 0,
V
o1
+ A
b
x
b
if 0 < x
b
< x
bmax
,
V
o2
if x
b
= x
bmax
,
(9)
where V
o1
is the initial volume of air in the brake chamber before the application of the brake, V
o2
is the maximum
volume of air in the brake chamber, A
b
is the cross-sectional area of the brake chamber, x
b
is the displacement of the
brake chamber diaphragm, i.e., the stroke of the push rod, and x
bmax
is the maximum stroke of the push rod.
In our current experimental setup, the rear brake chambers are mounted on a fixture and the end of the push rod
outside the brake chamber is not connected to a slack adjuster. The push rod is brought to rest during a given brake
application when it strikes a plate mounted with its face perpendicular to the direction of motion of the push rod. The
position of this plate can be adjusted to vary the push rod stroke. Hence, a reasonable model for the brake chamber is
given by
M
b
_
d
2
x
b
dt
2
_
+ K
b
x
b
= (P
rd
− P
atm
)A
b
− F
kbi
, (10)
where M
b
is the mass of the brake chamber diaphragm, K
b
is the spring constant of the brake chamber return spring
and F
kbi
is the pre-load on the brake chamber diaphragm return spring. It should be noted that the pressure of air in
the rear brake chamber at any instant of time is assumed to be the same as the pressure of air at the delivery port of
the relay valve at that instant of time. Neglecting inertial forces when compared to the force due to the pressure and
spring forces, the above equation reduces to
K
b
x
b
= (P
rd
− P
atm
)A
b
− F
kbi
. (11)
In the case of a brake chamber mounted on an actual axle, the relationship between the push rod stroke and the brake
chamber pressure has been found to be different than the one given by Eq. (11) due to the presence of additional
S.V. Natarajan et al. / Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems 1 (2007) 430–442 439
Fig. 8. Pressure transients at 653 kPa (80 psig) supply pressure — apply phase.
components such as the slack adjuster, S-cam, brake pads and brake drum [15]. Thus, the model relating the push rod
stroke and the brake chamber pressure for a rear brake chamber mounted on an actual rear axle should be developed
as described in [15].
Differentiating Eq. (8) with respect to time and comparing the result with Eq. (7), and using Eqs. (5), (6), (9) and
(11), we obtain the equation describing the pressure response of the relay valve during the apply and hold phases as
_
_
_

γ −1
_
1
RT
rs
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
_
_
_
P
rd
P
rs
_
_
2
γ
_

_
P
rd
P
rs
_
_
γ +1
γ
__
_
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
_
_
1
2
A
p
C
D
P
rs
sgn(P
rs
− P
rd
)
=
_
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
_
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
_
_
_
_
V
o1
P
_
γ −1
γ
_
rs
γ RT
rs
P
_
γ −1
γ
_
rd
_
_
_
˙
P
rd
if x
b
= 0,
_
_
_
V
b
P
_
γ −1
γ
_
rs
γ RT
rs
P
_
γ −1
γ
_
rd
+
P
1
γ
rd
A
2
b
P
_
γ −1
γ
_
rs
RT
rs
K
b
_
_
_
˙
P
rd
if 0 < x
b
< x
bmax
,
_
_
_
V
o2
P
_
γ −1
γ
_
rs
γ RT
rs
P
_
γ −1
γ
_
rd
_
_
_
˙
P
rd
if x
b
= x
bmax
,
(12)
where T
rs
is the temperature of the air being supplied to the relay valve, C
D
is the discharge coefficient, R is the
specific heat of air, γ is the ratio of specific heats of air (both R and γ are assumed to be constants) and
A
p
= 2πr
rv
_
x
r pp
− x
r pt
_
, (13)
with r
rv
being the external radius of the relay valve inlet section. The discharge coefficient (C
D
) is used in order to
compensate for the losses during the flow. Due to the complexity involved in calibrating the valve to determine the
value of the discharge coefficient, we assumed a value of 0.82 for C
D
as recommended in [17]. The pressure transients
in the brake chamber during the apply and hold phases are obtained by solving Eqs. (2) and (12) along with the initial
condition that at the start of a given brake application, the brake chamber pressure is equal to the atmospheric pressure.
440 S.V. Natarajan et al. / Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems 1 (2007) 430–442
Fig. 9. Pressure transients at 722 kPa (90 psig) supply pressure — apply phase.
Fig. 10. Pressure transients at 584 kPa (70 psig) supply pressure — apply and exhaust phases.
4. Corroboration of the model
In this section, we corroborate the model for the relay valve by comparing its predictions against experimental
data obtained from various test runs carried out over a range of supply pressures. It should be noted that the typical
supply pressure in air brake systems is usually between 825.3 kPa (105 psig) and 928.8 kPa (120 psig) and this is the
pressure range provided by the compressor used in our experimental setup. Eqs. (2) and (12) are solved numerically to
obtain the pressure transients in the rear brake chamber during the apply and hold phases of a given brake application.
The pressure measured at the delivery port of the primary circuit of the treadle valve is given as the input data to the
numerical scheme. The prediction of the model for a test run is compared with the data collected during that test run
and the results from various test runs are presented in Figs. 8–12. In these figures, time (in seconds) and brake chamber
pressure (in Pa) have been plotted on the abscissa and the ordinate respectively. The value t = 0 s corresponds to that
instant of time at which the computer program for collecting the data is started.
It can be observed from these figures that the model is able to predict the beginning and end of each brake
application reasonably well. The steady state brake chamber pressure is also predicted well by the model in all
S.V. Natarajan et al. / Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems 1 (2007) 430–442 441
Fig. 11. Pressure transients at 653 kPa (80 psig) supply pressure — apply and exhaust phases.
Fig. 12. Pressure transients at 584 kPa (70 psig) supply pressure — repeated application.
the cases. The model has also captured the pressure transients well in the exhaust phase during a complete brake
application and release cycle as shown in Figs. 10 and 11. It has also predicted the pressure transients well in the case
of repeated brake applications as can be observed from Fig. 12.
5. Conclusions
In this article, we have developed a hybrid model for predicting the response of the relay valve used in air brake
systems of commercial vehicles. The relay valve is actuated by the compressed air from the delivery port of the
primary circuit of the treadle valve. We have presented the main governing equations for the pressure transients in a
rear brake chamber attached to a delivery port of the relay valve. We have corroborated this model using data obtained
from experimental test runs performed over a range of supply pressures. We plan to incorporate this model of the relay
valve into an overall model of the air brake system which can be used in control and diagnostic applications.
442 S.V. Natarajan et al. / Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems 1 (2007) 430–442
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