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Smart Materials and Structures

Smart Mater. Struct. 23 (2014) 045013 (7pp) doi:10.1088/0964-1726/23/4/045013

Modeling of a new semi-active/passive

magnetorheological elastomer isolator
Majid Behrooz, Xiaojie Wang and Faramarz Gordaninejad
Composite and Intelligent Materials Laboratory, Mechanical Engineering Department, University of
Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA


Received 12 May 2013, revised 21 January 2014

Accepted for publication 21 January 2014
Published 5 March 2014

This paper presents theoretical modeling of a new magnetorheological elastomer (MRE) base
isolator and its performance for vibration control. The elastomeric element of the traditional
steelrubber base isolator is modified to a composite layer of passive elastomer and MRE
which makes the isolator controllable with respect to its stiffness and damping. The proposed
variable stiffness and damping isolator (VSDI) is designed based on an optimized magnetic
field passing through MRE layers to achieve maximum changes in mechanical properties.
The controllability of the VSDI is investigated experimentally under double lap shear tests.
A model employing the BoucWen hysteresis element is proposed to characterize the
forcedisplacement relationship of the VSDI. An integrated system which consists of four
VSDIs is designed, built and tested. Dynamic testing on the integrated system is performed to
investigate the effectiveness of the VSDIs for vibration control. Experimental results show
significant shift in natural frequency, when VSDIs are activated and the possibility of using the
VSDIs as a controllable base isolator.

Keywords: magnetorheological elastomer (MRE), variable stiffness and damping, base

(Some figures may appear in colour only in the online journal)

1. Introduction field. MREs do not leak and their ferrous particles do not
sediment as opposed to MRFs. MREs are solid, flexible,
Protecting civil structures from hazardous vibrations can play can operate in a wide range of frequencies and can tolerate
a key role in saving lives and resources. Various active, passive large deformations in tension, compression and shear. Both
and semi-active vibration devices have been proposed to MREs and MRFs have fast response time (in the order of
protect civil structures from seismic or severe storm events [1]. milliseconds) under an applied magnetic field.
Each system has its own advantages and disadvantages. Semi- Previous studies have shown potential applications of
active vibration isolators have received attention because they MREs for vibration control. For example, MREs can be used
consume less power than active devices and controllability in automobile engine variable stiffness suspension system
over passive systems [1, 2]. Recent studies have shown [46] or vehicle seat suspension system [7]. MREs have also
that a semi-active/passive isolator using magnetorheological been shown in applications such as adaptive tuned vibra-
elastomers (MREs) could potentially improve traditional base tion absorbers (ATVAs) [812]. ATVAs can shift the natural
isolation systems in seismic control of structures [3, 4]. frequency of the system by changing the shear modulus of
MREs are composed of micron-sized magnetic particles MREs [13]. ATVAs with a real time controller can potentially
embedded in an elastomeric medium and are analogous to suppress the response of a building compared to passive
magnetorheological fluids (MRFs). For MRFs, the yield stress dynamic vibration absorber [14].
can be altered by an external magnetic field, while MREs have Variable stiffness and damping isolators (VSDIs) have
controllable stiffness that is a function of applied magnetic been suggested in structural control. With appropriate control

0964-1726/14/045013+07$33.00 1 c 2014 IOP Publishing Ltd

Printed in the UK
Smart Mater. Struct. 23 (2014) 045013 M Behrooz et al

Figure 1. (a) Schematic of the cross section of VSDI, and (b) photo of the VSDI.

strategy, the VSDIs can suppress and avoid system resonant frequency response of the integrated system, the capability of
response. Kobori et al [15] proposed and implemented an the VSDIs in shifting the natural frequency of the system is
effective and low power VSDI in braces of a seismic response observed using frequency sweep technique for different input
controlled structure. Yang et al [16] implemented a variable electric currents.
stiffness system based on bypass dampers and showed its
performance depending on the type of the structure. Most of the
2. Design of the MRE VSDI
conventional VSDIs are mechanical or hydraulic systems and
have inherent disadvantages, such as, complex structure, slow Figure 1(a) shows a cross section view of the proposed
response and leakage [17]. A VSDI employing MRE, which variable stiffness and damping isolator (VSDI). It includes
may provide a solution to overcome these issues, has been
two steel caps each embedded with two coils. The size of
proposed and investigated by the authors [17]. In other studies,
the isolator is 128 mm 64 mm 110 mm. MREs, rubber
modification of traditional lead rubber bearing with MREs led
elements, and shims are 12 mm, 10 mm and 2 mm thick,
to a new controllable bearing device [18] and a small-scale
respectively. Diameter of the MRE is 60 mm and the size
MRE-based bearing was studied as base isolator for structural
of each cap is 128 mm 64 mm 42 mm. Coils embrace
applications [19]. Previous works by authors [17, 20] have
the steel core and steel top and the bottom circular plates
shown a design and test results in modifying traditional steel
which retain windings. The number of turns for each coil is
rubber bearings into a semi-active device using MREs. To
800 and the power for each VSDI is 234.2 W at 4 A. Two
use VSDIs for vibration control, the shear force deformation
MREs and one elastomer layer on each side are placed on
needs to be identified. Shear force deformation of MREs have
been experimentally investigated [21] and models have been the top of each cap such that the MREs are placed on the
proposed to predict behavior of MRE devices under various top plate. Positive and negative power cords are configured so
mechanical deformation and applied magnetic fields [22, 23]. that a closed-loop magnetic field is guaranteed in the device
In this study, a new VSDI device for vibration control to generate the highest possible magnetic field in the MREs.
is investigated. The proposed VSDI system consists of a In figure 1(a) perpendicular magnetic fields are in the same
traditional steelrubber vibration absorber, as the passive direction as the particle chains in MREs where they were cured
element, and MREs with a controllable stiffness and damping and aligned. The steel shim plays two roles; first it makes a
behavior, as the semi-active elements. The device is a transition channel for the passage of the magnetic flux resulting in higher
between traditional passive isolators and active isolators. It magnetic field in MREs, and second it prevents elastomeric
features a novel fail-safe design because of the integration of layers from tearing upon the application of large strains. For
semi-active MRE and passive rubber elements. This means the electromagnetic design ANSOFT finite element package is
that if MREs or electrical system fail to function, the rubber utilized. The electromagnetic simulation and optimized results
parts retain the minimum functionally of a passive steel rubber shows that the MREs in conical shape design combining with
base isolator. In this work, a VSDI prototype is designed, certain thickness shim would achieve highly effective magnetic
fabricated and tested. The performance of the device under field to activate the device. In this design, two thick low-carbon
shear deformation is explored by using a double lap shear steel plates embedded with four electromagnets generate a
test setup to obtain the forcedisplacement relationship. Four closed-loop magnetic field. The steel shims, rubbers and MREs
VSDI prototypes have been manufactured and tested with are placed between the two thick steel plates. Figure 1(b) shows
significant stiffness and damping changes when activated with the prototype of the VSDI and input power cords.
an input electric current. Performance of an integrated system The magnetic field distribution inside the VSDI is ana-
consisting of four VSDIs, a connecting plate and a controlled lyzed using the ANSOFT finite element package. A quarter-
mass is investigated using shake table tests. By measuring the model is constructed to obtain the magnetic field distribution.

Smart Mater. Struct. 23 (2014) 045013 M Behrooz et al

Figure 2. Magnetic field distribution inside the VSDI for different

input currents.

The simulation results in cross section area of AB are pre-

sented in figure 2. Based on these results, a relation between
the applied electric current (I ) and the magnetic field strength
(B) is developed. As shown in figure 2, when the current Figure 3. Double lap shear test setup on the INSTRON dynamic
approaches 5 A, the magnetic field approaches saturation. testing system.
An average magnitude of 0.65 T can be achieved to
activate the device with an applied electric current of 4 A.
Elastomer support is fabricated from a mixture of QM
113A and QM 113B from Quantum Silicones. The two
components were mixed at a weight ratio of 10:1 with a
high speed mixer for 510 min. The pre-cured polymer was
degassed at 25 in-Hg vacuum for 30 min to remove the bubbles,
and cured in the oven at 70 C for approximately 24 h, and then
the elastomer was demolded. Silicone MRE was synthesized
using QM107A, QM107A (hardness 7 durometer) and iron
particles with average diameter of 10 m. The two components
were mixed at a weight ratio 10:1 with a high speed mixer
for 510 min. Iron particles were added at 80 wt%, mixed
completely. Then, the pre-cured polymer was degassed at
25 in-Hg vacuum for 30 min to remove the bubbles. The
formation of chainlike structures of iron particles within MREs
is important to their performance. Thus, the chains are formed
by placing the pre-cured silicone-RTV MRE mixture in an Figure 4. Shear deformation test results of VSDI at 0.1 Hz.
electromagnet under 1 T magnetic flux density inside MREs
for 5 h. The chains are formed during chemical cross linking parallel to ensure the movement in pure shear. The force and
of the elastomer. The curing process is continued in an oven displacement are measured directly by the Instron load cell
at 70 C overnight. and a LVDT, respectively. To obtain the effect of the magnetic
field on the stiffness and damping change of the VSDIs, the
3. Double lap shear tests input electric current is increased from 0 to 4 A with step
increment of 1.0 A for each test. The shear strain is obtained
To characterize the MRE-based VSDI, a double lap shear based on the ratio of the shear displacement to the thickness
test setup is designed, fabricated and installed on a 5 kip of two elastomeric layers of the devices which is 20 mm in
Instron dynamic testing system (figure 3). The top plate of this design. The maximum shear strain of 2%, 5%, and 10% is
the setup is connected to the Instron load cell and the middle considered for this test based on input shear displacements.
plate is connected to the actuator. Two VSDI devices are Figure 4 shows a typical result of the forcedeformation
mounted between the vertical plates of the shear test setup. curves of the VSDI for different applied electric currents
The movement of the actuator which is connected to the and the maximum shear displacement of 1.0 mm which
middle plate of the two VSDIs shears the MREs as well as corresponds to 5% strain. As can be seen, by increasing
the elastomers inside the devices. All parts are installed in the input electric current, the slope of the curve increases.

Smart Mater. Struct. 23 (2014) 045013 M Behrooz et al

Figure 5. The proposed phenomenological model.

This means that the stiffness of the VSDI can be altered

by the applied magnetic field. The area under the hysteresis Figure 6. On-state and off-state shear force deformation
loop, which represents increasing the damping capacity, also characteristics of VSDIs for 5% strain at 0.1 Hz.
increases by increasing the applied electric current.
In a study by Isakovic et al [18] on the full-scale magnetic Table 1. Constant parameters used for VSDI modeling.
base isolator, the maximum shear force exerted by the isolator
was shown to increase for about 39%, and 34% in another Parameter Value Parameter Value
prototype study [19]. A full-scale base isolator with MREs N 1.14 k1 (N m1 ) 40 000
was shown to be able to increase the maximum force 33-45% (m2 ) 70 k2 (N m1 ) 25 000
depending on the input frequency [24]. Also, using soft MREs (m2 ) 3000 c2 (N s1 m1 ) 80
in base isolator, Li et al [25] have increased the maximum A 150 cm1 (N s1 m1 ) 2
load over 15 fold. As shown in figure 4, 57% increase in cm0 (N s1 m1 ) 40
the maximum load is attainable with the application of 4 A.
Higher-force performance in this study is attributed to the
where, , , n and A can be found from fitting the experimental
closed-loop magnetic design and optimization.
data and y is a dependent variable calculated from the balance
of forces:
4. Theoretical study and parameter identifications
k1 y = k2 (x y) + c2 (x y ). (3)
To use the VSDI along with a control system, its vibratory
behavior needs to be modeled in terms of a forcedisplacement The stiffness and damping elements are assumed to have a
relationship. Eem et al used a combination of Maxwell linear relation with the applied current, as follows:
and RambergOsgood models as a phenomenological model
km = km1 I + km0 (4)
for shear deformation of MREs [22] and Li et al used
another phenomenological model based on KohKelly model cm = cm1 I + cm0 (5)
to predict the behavior of MRE base isolator [25]. m = m1 I + m0 (6)
BoucWen model [26] is employed in this study. The
VSDI is expected to show stiffness, damping and hysteresis where, I is the applied current, km1 , cm1 and m1 are the stiff-
behaviors; therefore, a phenomenological model with springs, ness, damping and hysteresis effect changes per amp and km0 ,
viscous dampers and a hysteretic BoucWen element is pro- cm0 and m0 are the off-state stiffness, damping and hysteresis
posed as shown in figure 5. In this model, increasing the effect. A SIMULINK model has been developed to incorporate
magnetic field increases stiffness, damping and hysteresis the equations and to obtain the shear forcedisplacement
effect of the device with a current dependent spring, km , characteristics of the VSDI based on the proposed model.
The model constants are found and optimized by comparing
a current dependent damping coefficient, cm and a current
experimental and simulation results using SIMULINK and
dependent BoucWen coefficient. The control force of the
MATLAB. The constant parameters of the phenomenological
VSDI device is
model are shown in table 1. These parameters define the shape
f VSDI = z + k2 (x y) + c2 (x y ) + km x + cm x (1) of the hysteresis loop and do not change with current and strain
where, is a constant and z is the evolutionary variable to Figure 6 shows the forcedisplacement results of the
introduce hysteretic behavior of the BoucWen model defined VSDI from experimental results and reconstructed theoretical
as [26] modeling for on-state and off-state. The stiffness, damping,
hysteresis effect, and their respective changes are captured
z |n1 (x)
z = |x|z| |z|n + A(x) (2) accurately with this model. The sharp corners are created by the

Smart Mater. Struct. 23 (2014) 045013 M Behrooz et al

Table 2. Strain-dependent parameters used for VSDI modeling.

Strain (%) m0 (N m1 ) m1 (N m1 ) km0 (N m1 ) km1 (N m1 )

2 700 125 45 000 3000
5 600 110 25 000 3750
10 720 75 50 000 1250

Figure 8. On-state strain-dependent behavior of VSDIs at 4 A and

Figure 7. Off-state strain-dependent behavior of VSDIs at 0.1 Hz. 0.1 Hz.

absolute function in the BoucWen model. Theoretical results the load exerted by the VSDIs as expected for viscoelastic
show that the error is less than 5%. Figure 7 shows the results materials. The parameters of the proposed model are identified
of the off-state shear force deformation of the VSDI from based on dynamic testing of an integrated system to consider
experimental and theoretical results for various displacement this effect.
inputs. It is shown that the shape of the curves changes with
different displacement amplitudes. Such behavior suggests 5. The integrated system
that the model proposed above should have strain-dependent
parameters, as well. The strain-dependent parameters are To demonstrate feasibility for vibration control, an integrated
obtained and presented in table 2. system consisting of four VSDIs, a connecting plate and
Figure 8 shows the on-state results of the shear force a controlled mass is designed and built. The performance
deformation of VSDIs from the experiments and the proposed of the integrated system is studied under various vibration
model. It is shown that the defined constants can capture conditions using the LDS shake table, as shown in figure 9.
changes in the stiffness, damping and hysteresis of the VSDIs Four prototypes of the VSDI device are manufactured and
for each strain level and each input current. tested with significant stiffness and damping changes, when the
In this study, the proposed model is verified for the strain applied electric current is increased. The VSDIs are installed
ranges of up to 10%. Increasing loading frequency also affects on a horizontal LDS-Dactron shaking table. VSDIs are secured

Figure 9. Photo of the experimental setup for the integrated system with four VSDIs.

Smart Mater. Struct. 23 (2014) 045013 M Behrooz et al

Figure 11(a) shows the transmissibility function and in-

creased stiffness from the experimental results and figure 11(b)
shows the same data from theoretical modeling results. From
the insert in figure 11(a), it can be seen that natural frequency
increases almost linearly with the input current. This verifies
that the linear assumption of stiffness increase with current
is valid. Also the parameters of the model are identified for
these dynamic experiments to consider the effect of increased
frequency on VSDIs.
In the current test range, the performance of the integrated
system of the VSDIs did not show saturation with 2 A which
Figure 10. SIMULINK model of the integrated system. means the VSDI devices have the potential to induce more
changes in the stiffness and the damping of the system, if
to on the slip plate and a connecting plate is glued on top. A more electric current is applied. Comparing figures 11(a)
mass is introduced to the system, as the controlled mass. Two and (b) demonstrates the capability of the proposed model
accelerometers are calibrated and installed on the slip plate for predicting dynamic behavior of VSDIs in the integrated
and upper mass to measure the input and output accelerations, system. The model predicts the stiffness change accurately
respectively. The total weight of the mass component in the which can be seen from the peak frequency in both figures.
integrated system is 135.7 kg, which consists of four VSDI top However the damping prediction which is related to the peak
caps, a connecting plate and the supported mass. The system transmissibility has 1131% error depending on the input
is considered a single-degree-of-freedom (SDOF) vibration current. This may be due to higher damping that occurs at
system with a mass, controllable spring and variable damping higher frequencies. The results shows less damping occurs in
dashpot. The experiments were carried out using constant 0.1 g quasi-static case compared to the dynamic testing; therefore,
the damping obtained from quasi-static case needs to be
input acceleration and applied electric current ranging from 0
modified for the prediction of the dynamic behavior of VSDIs.
to 2 A. The frequency was swept from 5 to 25 Hz to obtain
the transmissibility function. A laser USB data acquisition
system is used to collect both input and output accelerations 6. Summary and conclusions
and the transmissibility function is calculated by the shake
A prototype VSDI is designed, built, and tested under quasi-
table software.
static and dynamic shear loads. To model the behavior of the
In a previous work it has been shown how the properties
system, quasi-static shear tests are performed. Increase in the
of a single VSDI could be used to predict the performance of area of the hysteresis loop shows an increase in damping
integrated systems [22]. In this study, a SIMULINK model and increase in the slope of the force deformation curve
along with signal processing is developed to model the shows a stiffness increase. A phenomenological model which
behavior of the integrated systems as shown in figure 10. In this can capture the behavior of the VSDI is developed and the
model the input current is changed to determine the integrated respective parameters are identified using experimental data
systems response with different input electric current. The from the double lap shear tests. The model is able to predict
input to the phenomenological model, which is shown in the behavior of VSDI with different input electric current and
figure 5, is the relative displacement and the output is the strain amplitude. The model will be used for future control
force exerted by four VSDIs. applications.

Figure 11. Transmissibility results of the integrated system of VSDIs for various input currents. (a) Experimental. (b) Theoretical.

Smart Mater. Struct. 23 (2014) 045013 M Behrooz et al

The performance of an integrated system of VSDIs [10] Collette C, Kroll G, Saive G, Guillemier V and Avraam M
is investigated with shake table vibration experiments to 2010 On magnetorheologic elastomers for vibration
demonstrate their functionality to isolate a scaled structure isolation, damping, and stress reduction in mass-varying
from ground vibrations. Results of the integrated system structures J. Intell. Mater. Syst. Struct. 21 14639
[11] Opie S and Yim W 2011 Design and control of a real-time
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increasing the supported mass will decrease the absolute [12] Liao G J, Gong X L, Kang C J and Xuan S H 2011 The design
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to increase stiffness and damping of the system. Moreover, magnetorheological elastomer and its vibration attenuation
when applied to the integrated system with its parameters are performance Smart Mater. Struct. 20 075015
tuned, the model is able to capture the natural frequency of the [13] Deng H X and Gong X L 2007 Adaptive tuned vibration
integrated system. This verifies that the model can be used for absorber based on magnetorheological elastomer J. Intell.
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[14] Popp K M, Zhang X Z, Li W H and Kosasih P B 2009 MRE
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Acknowledgments [15] Kobori T, Takahashi M, Nasu T, Niwa N and Ogasawara K
1993 Seismic response controlled structure with active
This work was supported by the US National Science Foun- variable stiffness system Earthq. Eng. Struct. Dyn.
dation. The authors are grateful for the support. The authors 22 92541
[16] Yang J N, Kim J H and Agrawal A K 2000 Resetting
would also like to thank Dr Joko Sutrisno and Dr Alan Fuchs
semiactive stiffness damper for seismic response control
for providing MREs and rubber parts of the VSDIs. J. Struct. Eng. 126 142733
[17] Behrooz M, Sutrisno J, Wang X, Fyda R, Fuchs A and
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