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Rheological behavior of magneto-rheological grease (MRG)

Huseyin Sahin, Faramarz Gordaninejad 1, Xiaoije Wang, and Alan Fuchs

Composite and Intelligent Materials Laboratory


Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA

ABSTRACT
This paper presents an experimental study on the rheological properties of a magneto-rheological (MR) grease. MR
fluids and MR greases are materials which consist of micron-size ferrous particles suspended in a carrier fluid. Their
material properties such as apparent viscosity and shear stress can be altered dramatically and reversibly when
stimulated by a magnetic field. The main difference between a MRG and a MR fluid is the viscosity of the carrier fluid.
Unlike MR fluids, MRGs do not have the particle settling issue. The steady-shear magneto-rheological response of
MRGs with at different temperatures is investigated. The results of apparent viscosity and yield stress under different
applied magnetic fields are reported. In addition, the wall surface effect on the flow behavior of MRGs under different
applied magnetic fields is examined using a slit channel flow device.

Keywords: Magneto-rheological grease, magneto-rheological fluid, rheological properties, no particle settling.

INTRODUCTION

Magneto-rheological (MR) fluid was invented by Rabinow in the late 1940s, are classified as a field-controllable fluid.
The rheological properties of a MR fluid can change rapidly, repeatedly and reversibly when an external magnetic field
is applied. MR fluids consist of micron-size non-colloidal ferromagnetic particles suspended in a carrier fluid. Under a
external magnetic field the state of an MR suspension changes from liquid to semi-solid and rheological properties such
as apparent viscosity, elasticity and plasticity change [1-4]. The study of rheological properties of MR fluids, such as,
shear yield stress has been a key design factor in the applications of MR fluids. MR fluids have been widely
investigated in industrial applications, such as, shock absorbers, torque transfer devices, and brakes [2, 3].

MR greases are similar to MR fluids, and their material properties such as apparent viscosity and shear stress can also be
altered dramatically, when stimulated by a magnetic field. Lubricating grease is a semi-solid lubricant comprised of a
thickener agent in a liquid lubricant. The latter, which is the major component of the grease, is based on either synthetic
or mineral oil. A non-soap additive such as fine clays or fine silicas or metallic soaps, such as, aluminum, calcium, or
lithium is used as a thickener agent [5]. The major difference between MR greases and MR fluids is the viscosity of the
carrier fluids. MR fluids utilize a thin viscous fluid resulting in ferrous particles settling. A reason for the gravitational
particle settling in MR fluids is the difference between specific gravity of the ferromagnetic particles and that of the
carrier fluid which can cause fast particle settling [6, 7]. This inherent disadvantage of MR fluids limits their
applications in practice. Due to the lack of research data related to MRG and the abundance of research related to MR
fluids, some properties of MRG materials that are superior to MR fluids have been left unrealized or overlooked.

This work presents an experimental study on the rheological characterization of MRGs. The steady-shear magneto-
rheological response of MR greases with various temperatures and magnetic fields are investigated by using a
commercial MR shear rheometer. The results of field-induced apparent viscosity and yield stress of the MRGs are
compared with that of conventional MR fluids. Moreover, the flow mode behavior of the MRGs under different applied

1
Professor, Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada, 89557, USA, E-mail: faramarz@unr.edu, Tel:
+1-775-784-6990, Fax: +1-775-784-1701

Active and Passive Smart Structures and Integrated Systems 2007, edited by Yuji Matsuzaki, Mehdi Ahmadian, Donald Leo,
Proc. of SPIE Vol. 6525, 65250D, (2007) · 0277-786X/07/$18 · doi: 10.1117/12.717714

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magnetic fields for different surface roughness (0.914µm, 12.7µm) is also examined by using a flow type MR rheometer
with a channel of rectangular cross section [8].

STEADY SHEAR TESTS

MR Grease Preparation

In this study, commercially available grease (Valvoline Multi-Purpose Grease) is used as carrier fluid to suspend
magnetizable particles. Table1 shows properties of the Valvoline Multi-Purpose grease.

Table 1. Properties of Valvoline Multi-Purpose Grease [9].


NLGI Grade 2
Soap Base Lithium
Texture Smooth
Color Gray-Black
ASTM Worked Penetration @ 77° F 283
ASTM Dropping Pt. °F 400
Rust Test (D 1743) Pass
Timken OK Load, lbs 40
Kinematic Viscosity @ 40° C, cSt 154.9
Kinematic Viscosity @ 100° C, cSt 14.8
Pour Point °C -15

The temperature effect on the apparent viscosity of the base grease material is shown in Figure 1. The apparent viscosity
is plotted as a function of the shear rate from 10-1 to 400s-1 for three different temperatures of 20°C, 40°C, and 60°C,
respectively. The apparent viscosity of the grease decreases with increasing the shear rate, indicating pseudoplastic
behavior. Also, as temperature increases, viscosity decreases, dramatically. At 20ºC the commercial grease has a
viscosity of 3.43 Pa.s at the shear rate of 400s-1. Increasing the temperature of the fluid to 60ºC results in a significant
reduction of the viscosity to 1.01Pa.s.
10
VG-20ºC VG-40ºC VG-60ºC
9

7
Apparent Viscosity(Pa.s)

4
MRG-20C
3

2
MRG-40C

1
MRG-60C

0
0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450
Shear Rate(1/s)

Figure 1. Apparent viscosity for Valvoline Multi-Purpose Grease vs. shear rate at various temperatures.

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Another distinctive property of grease materials is that the viscosity decreases with increasing shear rate which is known
as “shear thinning”. This behavior is an essential characteristic of greases in order to make better lubrication at high
frequencies during the movement of the lubricated face. The reason for shear thinning flow behavior is that an increase
in shear rate deforms or rearranges particles in the direction of the increasing shear, resulting in lower resistance and
consequently lower viscosity. On the other hand, a higher viscosity of greases at low shear rate could suspend particles
without particle settling. Therefore, it is natural to consider preparing MRGs by mixing iron particles with grease
materials in order to overcome the settling problems [7].

In this work MRGs are prepared by mixing carbonyl iron particles (ISP Technologies, Grade-R-2430) into commercial
grease (Valvoline Multi-Purpose Grease) with a range of particle volume fraction from 1.3% to 31.7%. In this paper
only MR grease with 31.7% particle volume fraction is presented in order to compare results with commercial MR fluid.

Characterization

The steady-shear behavior of the MR greases is obtained with a parallel-plate MR fluid rheometer (Paar Physica model
MCR 300 and MRD180). Parallel plates with a diameter of 20mm are selected for this study to obtain flow properties of
MRGs under the application of a magnetic field. The schematic diagram of the measuring system is shown in Figure 2.
The system includes four main elements: 1) the measuring drive system for testing specimen, 2) electronic control unit
for data acquisition and processing, 3) interface software, and 4) the DC power supply to provide and control the coil
current. The Rheometer system is equipped with a MR cell having a parallel plate configuration. Approximately,
0.315ml sample mass is filled in a constant gap of 1.0mm between two parallel plates during the experiment. Results
obtained have a possible error of ±0.05 ml due to the difficulty in measuring the mass of the MR grease. A constant
shear rate over the range from 10-1 to 400s-1 is applied and share stress and apparent viscosity are obtained.

MCR 300 has a JULABO F25 Temperature control unit. The JULABO refrigerated circulator employs a circulator head
and a cooling machine with bath tank, and it has been designed for heating and cooling of liquids in the bath tank. An
electronic proportional temperature control adapts the heat supplied to the thermal requirements of the bath. Three
temperatures (i.e., 20°C, 40°C, and 60°C) are maintained to an accuracy of ±0.01°C.

Computer

Controller
Torque
Displacement
Current(A)
Temperature(C)
Air Pressure (bar)

DC Power Supply

Physica MCR300

Figure 2. (a) Schematic of the MR rheometer measuring system.

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Upper plate
Magnetic field
MR Grease

Coil

Figure 2. (b) Schematic of the MR cell.

Results and Discussions

To characterize the rheological behavior of MRGs, which is a non-Newtonian fluids with pseudoplastic properties, the
Herschel-Bulkley model is considered, as follows:
. n
τ =τy + kγ
(1)
.

where τ is the shear stress; γ is the shear rate, k is the consistency coefficient, n is the flow behavior index, and τy is
the fluid yield stress. It should be noted that Newtonian, Bingham plastic, power law fluids can all be represented by the
Herschel-Bulkley model by setting specific values for the these three parameters.

Figure 3 shows dynamic shear stress as a function of the shear rate with different values of applied magnetic field
strength at temperature of 20ºC. It can be seen that the Herschel-Bulkley model fits the entire range of the experimental
data very well. It is clear that the MRG, when activated, behaves similar to a Herschel-Bulkley fluid, and the yield stress
is a function of magnetic field. Figure 4 and 5 show the results of steady shear tests of the MRG at temperature of 40ºC
and 60ºC, respectively. Temperature effect is significant on the flow properties of MRG. As temperature increases the
shear stress decreases, dramatically. At 20ºC the MRG has a shear stress of 2,316 Pa at the shear rate of 400s-1 for zero
magnetic field strength. Increasing temperature of the MRG to 60ºC results in a shear stress of 893 Pa at the shear rate
of 400s-1 for zero magnetic field strength. For a magnetic field strength of 0.53T, MRG has a shear stress of 49,664 Pa
at the shear rate of 400s-1 at the temperature of 20ºC. Increasing the temperature of the MRG to 60ºC results in a shear
stress of 41,200 Pa at the shear rate of 400s-1 under the magnetic field strength of 0.53T.
Experimental Herschel-Bulkley
60000

B=0.53T
50000

40000
Shear Stress(Pa)

B=0.28T
30000

20000
B=0.144T

10000

B=0.0T

0
0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400
Shear Rate(1/s)

Figure 3. The shear stress as a function of shear rate at different magnetic


flux density of 0.144 T, 0.28T and 0.53T.; at temperature of 20ºC

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Experimental Herschel-Bulkley
50000

45000 B=0.53T

40000

35000
Shear Stress(Pa)

30000
B=0.28T
25000

20000

15000
B=0.144T
10000

5000
B=0.0T
0
0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400
Shear Rate(1/s)

Figure 4. The shear stress as a function of shear rate at different magnetic


flux density of 0.144 T, 0.28T and 0.53T.; at temperature of 40ºC

50000
Experimental Herschel-Bulkley
45000 B=0.53T

40000

35000
Shear Stress(Pa)

30000
B=0.28T
25000

20000

15000

10000
B=0.144T

5000
B=0.0T
0
0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400
Shear Rate(1/s)

Figure 5. The shear stress as a function of shear rate at different magnetic flux
density of 0.144 T, 0.28T and 0.53T.; at temperature of 60ºC

Table 2 shows yield stress, consistency coefficient and flow behavior index values of the MRG, obtained from curve
fitting of the experimental data using Herschel-Bulkley model. It can be seen from Table 2 that as temperature
increases, the values of all three parameters decrease. This indicates that MRG is a temperature dependent material.
However, comparing with off-state (zero magnetic field), the temperature effect on the shear stress response of MRG at
on-state (magnetic field is applied) is not significant.

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Table 2. Yield stress, Consistency Coefficient and Flow Behavior Index Values of the MRG
for Various Magnetic Field Strengths and Temperatures.

Magnetic Yield Stress Consistency Flow Behavior


Temperature Field Coefficient Index
τy
T(ºC) B(T) (Pa) K(Pa.sn) n
0 282.28 33.562 0.6826
0.144 6500 151.55 0.6234
20
0.28 15107 2460 0.2925
0.53 33726 2982.1 0.2827
0 260.23 96.069 0.4226
0.144 5041 859.63 0.2861
40
0.28 15693 1894.6 0.2654
0.53 31752 2456.1 0.2664
0 175.06 69.822 0.3822
0.144 5746.1 399.23 0.3526
60
0.28 15594 1749.4 0.2736
0.53 25775 3117 0.2815

35000

30000

25000
MRG MRF
Yield Stress(Pa)

20000

15000

10000

5000

0
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6
Magnetic Field Strength B(T)

Figure 6. Comparison of the yield stress as a function of


magnetic field strength between MRG and MRF.

Figure 6 presents the comparisons between the yield stress of MR grease with conventional silicon based MR fluids at
room temperature of 20ºC. The MR fluid yield stress is obtained based on Equations (2) and (3) in Reference [10]. As
can be seen from Figure 6 the yield stresses of MRG are higher than that of the conventional MR fluid. It is worthy to
mention that the improvement of yield stress at on-state for MRG is at the expenses of increased off-state viscosity.

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FLOW MODE STUDY

Experimental Setup

The schematic of the experimental setup for the flow mode study of MR grease is shown in Figure 7 [8]. An
electromagnetic coil is built with a low-carbon steel core material. The coil is driven by an operation-amplifier power
supply in constant current mode. The core is installed to the middle of the channel to allow the application of magnetic
flux density perpendicular to the slit channel flow. The channel is composed of two pieces and each piece had a recess
that allows the placement of different roughness surface samples [11]. Controlling the velocity of a piston that is
connected to a servo-hydraulic Instron machine imposes the controlled flow rate, Q. Two fluid pressure transducers
measure the pressure drop, ∆P, across the channel.

The experiments are performed using an Instron Model 8821S servo hydraulic unit. Each test is repeated three times for
all samples to ensure the consistency and validity of the results. Ramp displacement profile, which generates constant
velocity, is utilized. The Instron head travels 19 mm upwards and returns to its original position for a given constant
velocity. Each set of test included 6 different velocities to examine different shear rates. The input current of 0, 0.5, 1.0,
2.0 and 3.0 amps are applied for each velocity. The data are collected using a LabView program developed for this
study. Two different surface (i.e., 0.914µm, 12.7µm) roughnesses are tested in order to compare the effect of surface
roughness on the flow behavior of MRG through a slit channel for various magnetic fields.

Pressure
Piston (connected to Transducers Nitrogen
Instron 8821s) Tank
Spring P0
P1 P2
N
V
MR fluid
S
Accumulator

Electromagnet

Figure 7. Schematic of flow mode MR rheometer [8].

Results and Discussions

Figure 8 presents typical measured results for the pressure drops and piston displacement in time domain for a piston
velocity of 0.635mm/s. As can be seen from Figure 7, the pressure drop increases as the magnetic field increases for a
given constant velocity profile. Similar results are obtained for different velocity and various magnetic field strengths.
The pressure drops of MRG flowing through the channel for two different surface roughnesses are plotted as a function
of volumetric flow rate for magnetic field strengths of 0.0, 0.191 and 0.405T (see Figure 9).

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1600 2

Displacement 1.8
1400 B=0.405 T

1.6
1200
B=0.369 T 1.4
Pressure Drop (kPa)

Displacement(cm)
1000
B=0.308 T 1.2

800 1

0.8
600 B=0.191 T

0.6
400
0.4

200
B=0 T 0.2

0 0
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
Time(sec)

Figure 8. Typical pressure drop and displacement profile for various magnetic fields.

As can be seen, the pressure drop increases with magnetic field as well as with the volumetric flow rate. However, the
surface roughness effect on pressure drop for MR grease flow under magnetic field is not significant, which is different
with the behavior of MR fluid in slit flow [11].

One of the reasons could be the lubricating behavior of grease which is used as a carrier fluid. Lubrication grease is a
highly structured suspension consisting of thickener agents, usually a metal soap, dispersed in mineral or synthetic oil
[12]. Previously, Magnin reported some photographs which show wall slip and fracture effect during the flow of silicon
grease [13]. Balna and Magnin also found some rheological evidence of the wall slip phenomena in grease
manufactured using metallic soap as thickeners [14-15]. Delgado describes the wall slip phenomena in grease flow in a
pipe line using smooth and rough surfaces [16].

2500
12.7um 0.914um

B= 0.405T
2000
Pressure Drop,∆P(kPa)

1500
B= 0.191T

1000

B= 0T

500

0
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000
Volumetric Flow Rate(mm^3/s)

Figure 9. Pressure drop as a function of volumetric flow rate for surface roughnesses
of 0.914µm, 12.7µm and for various magnetic fields.

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SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

A MRG is prepared by mixing magnetizable particles with a commercial grease. A MRG with 31.7% volume fraction of
iron particles is characterized using both shear rheometer and flow mode MR rheometer. The results show that MRG
has a high shear thinning behavior. Temperature effects on the shear stress responses of the MRG under various
magnetic fields are also examined. The MRG shows higher yield stress than conventional MR fluids, but at the expenses
of higher off-state viscosity. Herschel-Bulkley model is used to fit the shear stress - shear rate data obtained from
experiments for temperatures of 20ºC, 40ºC and 60ºC and for various magnetic field strengths.

Flow mode study is conducted in a channel flow with internal surface roughnesses of 0.914µm and 12.7µm for magnetic
fields of 0T, 0.191T and 0.405T. Results do not show significant difference between the two surface roughnesses. This
may be due to the wall slippage of the grease flow.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This project is funded by National Science Foundation. The authors would like to thank Dr. Shih Chi Liu, the Program
Director.

REFERENCES

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