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A Study on the Tribological

Characteristics of a MagnetoRheological Elastomer

Deuk-Won Lee
Kwanghee Lee
Chul-Hee Lee1
Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Inha University,
253 Yonghyeon-dong,
Nam-gu, Incheon 402-751, South Korea

Cheol-Hyun Kim
Won-Oh Cho
Research and Development Center,
Chang Am LS Company,
ChoongChungNam-Do 336-857, South Korea

Research on the applications of magneto-rheological (MR) elastomers in mechanical engineering has greatly expanded, whereas
the performance of MR fluids in tribology has rarely been investigated. In this study, the tribological characteristics of an MR elastomer are identified in order to improve tribological performance
with the activation of a magnetic field. Microscopic changes in
the surface and in the MR particles are investigated. The friction
and wear of an MR elastomer is measured using a pin-on-disc tester under applied and unapplied magnetic fields. In addition, the
linear sliding friction of an MR elastomer with respect to different
velocities and loads is measured using a linear sliding tester.
[DOI: 10.1115/1.4023080]
Keywords: coefficient of friction, wear, Magneto-rheological
(MR) elastomer, magnetic field


Magneto-rheological (MR) elastomers are in a solid state and

consist of polymers, such as rubber or silicone filled with magnetizable particles, which are typically sub-micron sized iron particles [1]. The advantage of MR materials is their ability to
instantaneously change their properties such as their elastic modulus and stiffness under a magnetic field [2]. Magneto-rheological
materials can be classified into two groups based on the types of
nonmagnetic base material: an MR fluid or an MR elastomer. An
MR fluid is a classical smart material that is used,for example, in
suspension systems with micro-sized magnetically polarizable
particles such as carbonyl iron, a carrier liquid such as silicone
oil, and mineral oil. The MR fluid is normally a free-flowing liquid with a consistency similar to that of motor oil. Its particles
randomly disperse and the fluid exhibits Newtonian behavior.
Upon activation of an external magnetic field, the fluids resistance to motion dramatically increases; thus, it can more
Corresponding author
Contributed by the Tribology Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL
OF TRIBOLOGY. Manuscript received January 20, 2012; final manuscript received July
16, 2012; published online December 20, 2012. Assoc. Editor: George K. Nikas.

Journal of Tribology

effectively oppose an external force. There have been studies on

the applications and tribological characteristics of the MR fluid
[36]. However, there are shortcomings of the MR fluid. When
there is a leakage of fluid, it can cause environmental contamination. Additionally, the fluid must be sealed in a confined space in
order to prevent any leakage. Particle residue in the fluid can degrade the performance. To compensate for these weaknesses, MR
elastomers with the same properties as MR fluids [7] have been
developed for use in nonconfined spaces.
There has been some research focused on MR elastomers. The
R&D laboratory of Toyota Center developed a silicon gel containing iron particles for engine mounts [8]. The Ford research laboratory developed MR elastomers with natural and synthetic rubber
[9]. Watson used MR elastomers to make tunable automotive
bushings [10]. Isolation systems using the properties of MR elastomers are proposed. However, although there are a number of
studies evaluating the performance and applications of MR elastomers, hardly any research exists on the evaluation of the tribological characteristics, such as friction or wear, of MR elastomers.
The particles in an MR fluid have more contact with surfaces
when they are working in high speed environments because the
particles randomly dispense in the fluid and they can move freely.
However, the particles in an MR elastomer are fixed over the base
material, thus occurrences of contact remains limited compared to
in an MR fluid. In addition, the tribological characteristics of an
MR elastomer can be controlled under different intensities of
magnetic fields compared with common elastomers. The MR elastomers change their properties when a magnetic field is applied.
New studies of MR elastomers have been carried out in various
application areas, although this research has remained at a basic
level [11]. Magneto-rheological elastomers have wide-ranging
potential applications. Therefore, the technical skills needed to analyze their characteristics and improve their performance must be
developed. This study is mainly focused on estimating the friction
and wear characteristics of MR elastomers in a magnetic field.
Experiments are performed to examine the tribological characteristics of an MR elastomer made of five different types of macromolecule (high polymer) with different viscosities and with Fe,
Ni, and Co powders. The results are used to evaluate the linear
sliding friction characteristics of the MR elastomer under different
load conditions with and without an applied magnetic field. The
stick-slip phenomenon of the MR elastomer is observed and measured during the linear sliding friction experiment. Stick-slip is a
phenomenon caused by a sudden change in friction when two bodies
are in contact. The sliding friction characteristics vary according to
the sliding speed and stick-slip occurs because of the alternation
between linear sliding friction and dynamic friction. This phenomenon causes many serious problems in actual situations. For example,
vibration caused by stick-slip can decrease precision in industrial
manufacturing processes. Therefore, a great amount of research has
been devoted to analyzing this problem [2,12,13].

Magneto-Rheological Elastomer

To make an MR elastomer, a silicone gel is composed using a

hydrosilylation reaction of a; x-vinyl polydimethylsiloxane and
a; x-hydrido polydimethylsiloxane. Five different macromolecules (high polymers) of different viscosities and Fe, Ni, and Co
powder are filled with the influence of magnetic polarity. An adhesion promoter, such as vinyl trialkoxy silane or hydrogen trialkoxy silane, is added to delay the separation of the mixture and
silicone macromolecule and to couple with each other when the
silicone reaction occurs. As a catalyst, a coordinate number 6 of
platinic acid and divinyl tetramethyl disiloxane synthesis are
added and adjusted to the proper Pt content. The MR elastomers
are poured into a molding box and left at room temperature in
order to eliminate bubbles. A molding box filled with the MR
elastomer is placed in an oven for 2 h to harden [1]. The completed MR elastomers are 59.5 mm in diameter and 6 and 15 mm
in height, respectively, as shown in Fig. 1.

C 2013 by ASME
Copyright V

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Fig. 1 The MR elastomer specimens (59.5 mm in diameter and

6 and 15 mm in height)

tics. Several experiments are conducted under different test conditions with the existence of magnetic fields and various loads.
A linear sliding tester designed to measure linear sliding friction is shown in Fig. 3. Since some parts of the original tester are
made of steel, it could be affected by a magnetic field during the
test. Thus, there was a possibility that the test results could be
unreliable. Therefore, the tester was re-designed using aluminum,
which is not affected by a magnetic field. The tester consists of a
data acquisition board for data collection, a linear stage, a power
supply, and an electromagnet with a 60 mm in diameter, 60 mm in
height, and a magnetic field strength of 0.2 T.
In the first stage of the test, the surface of the MR elastomer is
observed through a microscope to identify its characteristics, with
and without a magnetic field, before carrying out the friction and
wear test. The friction and wear characteristics using a pin-on-disc
tester are then identified. The pin diameter and length used in the
test are 5 and 30 mm, respectively. Because rubber can easily be
torn by sharp edges, the experiments are conducted with a steel
ball attached to the end of the pin to minimize damage to the surface of the MR elastomer. Table 1 shows the conditions of the
pin-on-disc test according to the existence of a magnetic field; the
other test conditions are the same as in the test using rubber. The
velocity and time duration are fixed at 2.36 mm/s and 2 h, respectively. The load is varied (5, 10, and 15 N).
In the second stage, a linear sliding test is carried out for an MR
elastomer 6 and 15 mm in height and 59.5 mm in diameter. Table 2
shows the conditions of the test. Two test conditions are used: an
applied magnetic field and with no magnetic field. The applied
loads are 2 and 6 N, and the velocities are 1, 10, and 37.5 mm/s.
The sliding distance is fixed at 20 mm.

Table 1

Fig. 2

Pin-on-disc tester














A pin-on-disc tester, as shown in Fig. 2, is used to investigate

the friction and wear characteristics of the MR elastomer. The
pin-on-disc tester can switch the magnetic field on and off with a
constant intensity to investigate the friction and wear characteris-

Fig. 3

014501-2 / Vol. 135, JANUARY 2013

Test conditions of pin-on-disc test


Linear sliding tester

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Table 2

Conditions of linear sliding test














Fig. 5 Results of the average friction coefficients based on the

pin-on-disc test results

are shown differently, depending on magnetic field. Based on the

results, a lower coefficient of friction and wear under the magnetic
field show that the stiffness and modulus of the MR elastomers
have changed because of the resisting force.
A test was conducted in order to identify the changes in the friction and wear characteristics according to the intensity of the

Fig. 4 Microscopic images on the surface of the MR elastomer:

(a) no magnetic field, and (b) applied magnetic field


Results and Discussion

To identify the characteristics of an MR elastomer with a magnetic field, the surface is observed using a microscope. Figures
4(a) and 4(b) are images of the surfaces of the MR elastomer with
no applied magnetic field and with an applied magnetic field,
respectively. The carbonyl iron (CI) particles are likely to gather
due to the presence of a magnetic field (compared to no magnetic
field), which is shown in Fig. 4(b). The gathered CI particles
assume that a resisting force can be applied to the direction of the
magnetic field. The results of the friction and wear characteristics
Journal of Tribology

Fig. 6 Images on the surface of the MR elastomer after the pinon-disc tests: (a) no magnetic field, and (b) applied magnetic

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applied magnetic field. The measured friction coefficient data

from the pin-on-disc test is shown in Fig. 5. Tests 1 to 3 are cases
with no magnetic field, whereas Test 4 to Test 6 are cases with a
magnetic field. The duration and velocity are fixed at 2 h and
2.36 m/s, respectively. The applied load is varied from 5 to 15 N.
These results show that a higher friction coefficient occurred with
no magnetic field compared to the coefficient with a magnetic field.
Additionally, the test shows that a higher load increased the coefficient of friction. Therefore, it is confirmed that the performance

Fig. 8 Comparison of the results between linear sliding friction and acceleration (load of 2 N and velocity of 1 mm/s; Test 7)

against friction is improved for the case of a lower load and applied
magnetic field.
In general, Schallamach waves and the generation of wear particles typically occur in elastomers during a friction and wear test
[14]. These phenomena also occurred in the MR elastomer during
the pin-on-disc test in this study because the base material of the
MR elastomer is a silicon-based material. The generated Schallamach waves and wear particles are shown in Fig. 6. The solid
arrow in Fig. 6(a) shows the direction of rotation. In the figure,
the Schallamach waves and wear particles are marked in front of
the arrow. As shown in Fig. 6(b), the Schallamach wave phenomenon and the generation of wear particles occurred less often
when the stiffness increased with the activation of the magnetic
In the second experiment, a linear sliding test was carried out in
order to investigate the characteristics of linear sliding friction in
an MR elastomer. Figure 7 shows the measured linear sliding friction coefficient for different test conditions, which are described
in Table 2. Figure 7 shows that the friction coefficient at the beginning of the test rapidly increases. The MR elastomer is compressed at the beginning of the test because of the load applied to
its surface, which caused a sudden increase in the coefficient of
friction for the initial state of the test. Tests 7 to 12 are cases with

Fig. 7 Results of the linear sliding test: (a) velocity 5 1 mm/s,

(b) velocity 5 10 mm/s, and (c) velocity 5 37.5 mm/s

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Fig. 9 Average friction coefficient results from the linear sliding test

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no magnetic field, whereas Tests 13 to 18 are cases with an

applied magnetic field. The stick-slip phenomenon is detected
from the results of the linear sliding friction test. Figure 7 shows
that as the velocity increases, the effect of the stick-slip phenomenon decreases. The stick-slip phenomenon in Test 7 with no
magnetic field is the most prominent. As shown in Fig. 8, the
acceleration data and the coefficient of friction are compared and
analyzed using Test 7 to determine if the observed phenomenon
could be considered to be stick-slip behavior. Since the magnitude
and period in the frequency of the vibration acceleration during
sliding almost coincides with those of the friction coefficient, it is
confirmed that stick-slip occurred in the MR elastomer. As shown
by the test results, the incidence of stick-slip decreases when a
magnetic field is applied. Therefore, it is suggested that the incidence of stick-slip depends on the magnetic field because the
magnetic field changes the stiffness of the MR elastomer. Figure 9
shows the average results of the measured friction coefficient in
the steady state, which is from a distance of 8 to 14 mm. The
increased load and velocity and the unapplied magnetic field in
the test show the result of a higher coefficient of friction. In the
linear sliding friction test with a short duration and a small load,
Schallamach waves and wear particles are not generated.


The tribological characteristics of MR elastomers are examined. Magneto-rheological elastomers, based on silicone rubber
mixed with high polymers with two different viscosities and polarity materials, are produced. Friction and wear tests were carried
out to obtain the tribological characteristics under a magnetic
field. Microscopic images of the surface of the MR elastomers
show that CI particles are likely to gather when a magnetic field is
applied. The gathered CI particles can change the property, such
as the modulus of MR elastomers, affecting the friction and wear
characteristics of MR elastomers. The friction and wear characteristics of the elastomer are measured using a pin-on-disc tester. To
examine the performance against friction and wear, the tests are
conducted under an applied magnetic field and with no magnetic
field with three load conditions. The results of the pin-on-disc
tests shows that a smaller load with an applied magnetic field
leads to a decrease of the friction coefficient. In addition, it was
observed that Schallamach waves and wear particles are generated
on the surface of the MR elastomer, especially when no magnetic
field is applied. Schallamach waves are different from the ones in
common elastomers due to the CI particles. It is assumed that the
CI particles affect the elasticity of MR elastomers. Schallamach
waves are not observed when a magnetic field is applied because
the MR elastomer stiffens.
A linear sliding tester was designed and the test was conducted
in order to evaluate the friction and wear characteristics of the
MR elastomer under the applied magnetic field. The results of the
linear sliding test show a lower friction force when a smaller load
and slower velocity are applied. In addition, a stick-slip phenomenon

Journal of Tribology

is detected when measuring linear sliding friction and the stickslip behavior decreases when the magnetic field is activated. The
increased velocity can also diminish the stick-slip effect. Based
on the obtained tribological characteristics, including the stickslip phenomenon, MR elastomers could potentially be applied to
various industrial or automotive systems with further studies
under more realistic conditions. Applications using MR elastomers can be specified to, for example, a controllable pad attached
to the bottom of a robot or clutches with a controllable pad on
them. Further studies need to be conducted under more realistic

This research was supported by the Ministry of Knowledge
Economy (MKE), Korea, under the Convergence Information
Technology Research Center (CITRC) support program (Grant
No. NIPA-2012-H0401-12-1007) supervised by the National IT
Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA). This research is also supported by the Basic Science Research Program of the National
Research Foundation of Korea (NRF), funded by the Ministry of
Education, Science and Technology of the government of Korea
(Grant No. 2010-0025763). This research was supported by Inha

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