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# STABILITY OF PNEUMATIC and HYDRAULIC VALVES

These three tutorials will not be found in any examination syllabus. They have been added to the
web site for engineers seeking knowledge on why valve elements sometimes go unstable and what
can be done to prevent it.

## TUTORIAL 2 - FLUID SPRINGS AND DASHPOTS

This tutorial show how analogies may be used to derive the spring rate for a fluid column and the
damping characteristics of a dashpot. These are important elements in any hydraulic or pneumatic
system.
The analogous quantities throughout will be as follows.
Pressure (p) - Voltage (V)
Mass flow ( m& ) - Current(I or i)
Mass (m) - Charge (Q)

1. PNEUMATIC SPRING

## Examples of pneumatic springs are found in suspension systems and seats.

Any linear pneumatic actuator will have a springiness that should be
consider when analysing the possibility of oscillations due to the
interaction of the mass and the spring.

The following shows the application of tutorial 1 to a pneumatic spring. The diagram shows a
volume of gas trapped in a cylinder by a piston. The gas pressure is 'p'. If the piston is moved a
small distance 'x' the pressure rises as the gas is compressed. For rapid movement the compression
p1 (Al 1 ) = p 2 (Al 2 ) p1 (l 1 ) = p 2 (l 2 ) p1 (l1 ) = p 2 (l1 − x )
γ γ γ γ γ γ γ γ
p1V1 = p 2 V2
γ
pl
p2 = 1 1 γ
(l1 − x )
The increase in the force due to the gas pressure is Fp = A(p2 - p1)
⎡ pl γ ⎤ ⎡ l 1γ ⎤
Substitute for p2. Fp = A ⎢ 1 1 γ − p1 ⎥ = Ap1 ⎢ − 1⎥
⎣⎢ (l 1 − x ) ⎣⎢ (l 1 − x )
γ
⎦⎥ ⎦⎥
Differentiate with respect to x.
dFp ⎡⎛ l ⎞ γ ⎛ γ ⎞⎤
= Ap1 ⎢⎜⎜ 1 ⎟⎟ ⎜⎜ ⎟⎟⎥ and this indicates that the spring rate depends on the position of the
dx ⎢⎣⎝ l1 − x ⎠ ⎝ l1 − x ⎠⎥⎦
dFp ⎡⎛ γ ⎞⎤
piston but when x = 0, = Ap1 ⎢⎜⎜ ⎟⎟⎥ Note the units are N/m
dx ⎣⎝ l 1 ⎠⎦
This is the pneumatic spring rate kp at the start of the change but may be applied over a range if
x<<l1.
The expression is particularly useful when analysing vibrations with small amplitudes.

2. HYDRAULIC SPRING

A hydraulic fluid is virtually incompressible and this depends on the bulk modulus K. Only at
exceptionally high pressures does this become an issue (e.g. in some aircraft undercarriage designs
the elasticity of the hydraulic fluid is used to produced a measure of springing). The elasticity of the
pipes is more likely to be a factor in hydraulic circuits.
3. PNEUMATIC DASHPOT

Pneumatic dashpots are used on many devices to damp out oscillations. The example shown here
was used in conjunction with a pressure relief valve. It was found that the valve oscillated up and
down at a high frequency when relieving air from some systems. This was due to the resonance of
the connecting pipe and volume interacting with valve. It is interesting to analyse fully why the
valve oscillated but in this section we will examine the damping characteristics of the dashpot. The
purpose of the dashpot was to dampen these oscillations. In the original design there was no
damping orifice and it was thought that the clearance gap between the piston and cylinder would
produce damping. Research showed that the damper simply acted as a pneumatic spring that added
to the steel spring simply determined the resonant frequency. The damping orifice made quite a
difference.

Basically, when the piston moves up, air is pushed out of the chamber and when the piston moves
down, air is sucked into the chamber. The pressure produced by the restriction and inertance always
acts to oppose the motion of the piston and hence dampens the movement.

It is assumed that the changes in pressure are adiabatic. This is an accurate assumption for
frequencies above 1 Hz. The pressure inside the dashpot is p and outside is atmospheric pa. The
pressure inside is equal with the pressure outside when the valve starts to oscillate starting from the
rest position xo. The pneumatic or pressure force acting on the piston is Fp.

Let us examine the case when the oscillations are small in amplitude. This approach is called a
SMALL PERTURBATION ANALYSIS. Consider the simplified diagram.

## The air inside the dashpot has a mass m, volume V, pressure p

and temperature T.
The characteristic gas law gives pV = mRT
Differentiate with respect to time.
dp dV dT dm
V +p = mR + RT
dt dt dt dt
dV dx
V = Ap(l - x) hence = −A p
dt dt
γ
γ −1
It is reasonable to assume that the change in pressure is adiabatic so pT = constant
dT γ - 1 ⎛ T ⎞ dp
= ⎜ ⎟
dt γ ⎜⎝ p ⎟⎠ dt

p = pa + δp where δp is the increase in pressure relative to the outside. dp = d(δp)
dm δp
The mass flow rate through the orifice is m & = = − where G is the orifice restriction or
dt G
resistance. Combining the equations we have:
dp dV dT dm
V +p = mR + RT
dt dt dt dt
d(δp ) dx γ - 1 ⎛ T ⎞ dp δp
V − App = mR ⎜⎜ ⎟⎟ − RT
dt dt γ ⎝ p ⎠ dt G
d(δp ) dx γ - 1 ⎛ T ⎞ dp δp
V − A p p − mR ⎜⎜ ⎟⎟ = −RT note mRT = pV
dt dt γ ⎝ p ⎠ dt G
d(δp ) dx γ - 1 dp δp
V − App − V = − RT note dp = d(δp)
dt dt γ dt G
d(δp ) ⎡ (γ - 1) ⎤ dx δp V d(δp ) dx δp
V ⎢1− ⎥ − App = −RT − App = − RT
dt ⎣ γ ⎦ dt G γ dt dt G
V d(δp ) δp dx
+ RT = App It is convenient here to change to Laplace form.
γ dt G dt
V
s(δp ) + RT
(δp ) = A p s(x) ⎡V
δp ⎢ s +
RT ⎤
= A p p s(x)
G ⎥⎦
p
γ G ⎣γ
⎡V RT ⎤ ⎡V RT ⎤
δpA p ⎢ s + ⎥ = A 2p p s(x) note δp Ap = Fp Fp ⎢ s + ⎥ = A 2p p s(x)
⎣γ G ⎦ ⎣γ G ⎦
Fp A 2p p s γ G A 2p p s V
= = Pneumatic capacitance was defined as C =
x V
s+
RT G V s + γ R T γRT
γ G
Fp γ G A 2p p s γ G A 2p p s γ CG A 2p p s
= = = Define a time constant as τ = CG
x GVs+ V ⎛ 1 ⎞ V(CG s + 1)
V⎜ G s + ⎟
C ⎝ C⎠
Fp γ τ A p p s
2
Fp γ τ Ap p s
= Note V = Ap (l - x) =
x V(τ s + 1) x (l − x )(τ s + 1)
From the previous section we know that at the mean position the rate of change of force with
dFp Ap p Fp k pτ s
distance is k p = =γ so if x is small compared with l =
dx l x (τ s + 1)
k τ sx
The pneumatic force is conveniently defined as Fp = p
(τ s + 1)
k p τ jω x
Making the Laplace substitution s becomes jω Fp =
(τ jω + 1)
This shows that at high frequencies Fp = k p x and so behaves as a pneumatic spring with negligible
damping.

At low frequencies Fp = k p τ ω x and so behaves the same as a viscous damper where force is
directly proportional to velocity (v = ω x). In this case we usually define the force as Fp = c v where
c is the viscous damping coefficient and c = kp τ

Fp k p τ jω x (τ jω + 1)
= or =
x (τ jω + 1) Fp k p τ jω
If this is turned into a complex number we have
x 1 ⎛ 1 ⎞
= ⎜⎜1 − j ⎟
Fp k p ⎝ τ jω ⎟⎠

## From the vector

x
=
(1 + ω τ )
2 2
hence
Fp
=
k p τω
Fp k p τω x (1 + ω τ )
2 2

⎛ 1 ⎞
The phase angle between Fp and x is φ = tan −1 ⎜ ⎟
⎝ ωτ ⎠
ENERGY DISSIPATION

## If the dashpot oscillates harmonically with an amplitude X the damping force is

k p τω k p τω
Fp = x= X sin (ωt + φ )
(
1 + ω2τ 2 )
1 + ω2τ 2 ( )
For a given set of parameters this may be written Fp = KX sin (θ + φ )
and the displacement is x = X sin(θ)

## If we plot Fp against x for a given set of parameters we get a

loop and the area within the loop is the work done against the
pressure and hence the energy dissipated by the dashpot.

## For 1 cycle the energy dissipated is E = ∫ Fdx

E = ∫ Fdx = ∫ KXsin(θ + φ ) dx
0
x = X sin(θ) so dx = X cos(θ) dθ

E = KX 2 ∫ sin (θ + φ ) cos(θ )dθ
0
2 2π
KX ⎡
E= ⎢θsin(φ ) −
1
(cos(2θ )cos(φ ) − sin(2θin(2(φ ) )⎤⎥
2 ⎣ 2 ⎦0
1
E = KX 2 [π sin(φ )] From the vector we have sin(φ ) = and putting
(1 + ω τ )2 2

k p τω k pτ π ω X2
K = the energy dissipated for each cycle is E =
(1 +
ω 2τ 2 ) 1 + (τ ω )
2

## In a viscous damper the energy dissipated is E = c π ω X2

kpτ
If we equate we can establish an equivalent viscous damping coefficient such that ce =
1 + (ωτ )2
Maximum damping will occur at any given frequency when θ = 45o and ω τ = 1 in which case:-
k τ π k pX2
ce = p and E =
2 2
These are the design parameters for a dashpot to produce maximum damping at a given frequency.

CASE STUDY

A pneumatic dashpot similar to that shown in the previous diagram has the following
parameters.

The volume of the air at the mean position is V = 10460 mm3 and the effective length was 25
mm.
The ambient conditions are p = 100 kPa, T = 288 K.
The gas constants for air are γ = 1.4 and R = 287 J/kg K.
The relationship between pressure drop and mass air flow through the orifice was measured and
it was found that at low pressure values the pneumatic resistance was reasonably linear with a
value of 23.8 x 106 N/ m s.

Determine the energy lost to damping and the equivalent damping coefficient when the dashpot
is oscillated at 75 Hz with a peak to peak amplitude of 2.35 mm.

## First calculate the pneumatic capacitance of the dashpot.

V 10460 x 10 −9
C= = = 90.392 x 10 −12 m s2
γ R T 1.4 x 287 x 288
The time constant is τ = GC = 23.8 x 106 x 90.32 x 1012 = 2.151 x10-3 s
X = 2.35/2 = 1.175 mm l = 25 mm hence A = V/ l = 418.4 x 10-6 m2
F = 75 Hz hence ω = 2πf = 471.239 rad/s
kp = γ p A/ l = 1.4 x 100 x 103 x 418.4 x 10-6 /0.025 = 2343 N/m
φ = tan-1(1/ωτ) = 44.6o
k p τ π ω X2 2343 x 2.151 x 10−3 x π x 471.239 x 0.0252
E= = = 5.081 x 10−3 J
1 + (τ ω)
2
(
1 + 471.239 x 2.151 x 10 )
−3 2

kpτ −3
2343 x 2.151 x 10
ce = = = 2.486 N s/m 2
1 + (ωτ )2
(
1 + 471.239 x 2.151 x 10 )
−3 2

Tests to determine the actual values gave a result quite close to the predicted values.

3. HYDRAULIC DASHPOT

A typical hydraulic dashpot is a piston in a cylinder with holes allowing the liquid to move from
one side of the piston to the other. Many variations are possible.

Without derivation, it can be shown that since the force required to shear a Newtonian fluid is
directly proportional to the rate of shear, then the damping force produced by hydraulic dashpot is
directly proportional to the velocity of the piston. F ∝ v. Velocity v is the first derivative of
distance so F ∝ dx/dt
dx
The basic law of a dashpot is: F(t) = c c is the damping coefficient.
dt
Changed into Laplace form. F=csx
x 1
Rearranged into a transfer function H = (s) =
F cs
c is the damping coefficient with units of Force/Velocity or N s/m. The dashpot can be represented
by a simple transfer function as shown.
δF
In terms of rate of spring rate = k = cs
δx
When the piston is reciprocated harmonically with amplitude X the energy dissipated is
π kX 2 π X 2
E= =
2 2c
Instantaneous power dissipated is P = Force x velocity