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Publication numberUS3750067 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJul 31, 1973
Filing dateMar 16, 1972
Priority dateMar 16, 1972
Publication numberUS 3750067 A, US 3750067A, US-A-3750067, US3750067 A, US3750067A
InventorsFletcher J
Original AssigneeNasa, Sabelman E
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Ferrofluidic solenoid
US 3750067 A
An electromechanical actuator for producing mechanical force and/or motion in response to electrical signals applied thereto, is disclosed. The actuator includes a ferromagnetic fluid and a coil which are contained within an elastomeric capsule. Energization of the coil by application of current to a pair of coil electrodes extending through the walls of the elastomeric capsule produces distortion of the capsule, i.e., radial expansion and axial contraction. This distortion is caused by the redistribution of the ferromagnetic fluid within the capsule under the influence of the magnetic field produced by the energized coil. Variation of the current input will produce corresponding variations in the degree of capsule distortion.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

[11] -3,750,067 [451. July 31,` 1973 4United StateS Patentl i [191.

Fletcher et al.

[54] FERROFLUIDIC SOLENOID [76] Inventors: James C. Fletcher, Administrator of Primary Examiner-George Harris Attorney-Monte F. Motte et al.

[571 p ABSTRACT An electromechanical actuator for producing mechanithe National Aeronautics and Space Administration with respect to an invention of; Eric E. Sabelman, Palo Alto, Calif.

[22] Filed: Mar. 16, 1972 cal force arid/or motion in response to electrical signalsv PATENTEDJuLal ma .snm 1 of 2 FERROFLUIDIC SOLENOID ORIGIN OF THE INVENTION The invention described herein was made in the performance of work under a NASA contractand is subject to the provisions of Section 305 of the vNational Aeronautics land Space Act of 1958:, Public Law 85-568 (72 Stat. 435; 42 U.S.C. 2457).

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION l. Field of the Invention This invention generallyrelates to electromechanical devices for producing predetermined mechanical movements, or reactions, in response to the application of electrical energy. More specifically, the presentr invention concerns ferrofluidic actuators that will readily serve as a current-to-pressre transducer, i.e., variable tainer which is positioned to allow controlled magnetic forces to act on the magnetic fluid and 'thereby cause mechanical movement. f

Such electromechanical actuators using a magnetic fluid present several advantages over conventional solenoids which include a core and a concentrically posi tioned coil. Among these advantages are the provision of maximum force at the extreme end of a work stroke,

and the production of variable force or displacement inv response to variations in electrical current applied.

thereto. A further advantage provided by ferrofluidic solenoids is the reduction, orelimination, of slidingor rotating parts thereby enabling the lifetime of the solenoid to be limited only by fatigue, puncture or corrosion of the capsule containing the magnetic fluid.

An example of a prior art electromechanical actuator including the use of a magnetic fluid is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 2,792,536. Briefly, thereferenced prior art device involves a ferromagnetic fluid that is sealed in a container having flexible walls to form the core of a solenoid. A coil is situated in close proximity to the container such that the application of electric current to the coil produces deformation of the container.

Such prior art ferrofluidic solenoids have been found.

to be bulky and are, by design, limited to producing forces that are generally resolvable along a single axis or plane. Further, these prior art devices are generallyA unacceptable for employment in spacecraft due to theiry undesirable levels of magnetic flux leakagewhich may cause deleterious affects on adjacent scientific instrumentation.

OBJECTS AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION lt is a primary object of the presentl invention to pro-` vide an improved ferrofluidic solenoid for producing mechanical forces or movement in response to the application ofelectrical energy.

It is anotherobject of the'present invention to provide a ferrofluidic solenoidcharacterized` by compactness, simplicity andlow magnetic fluxleakage.

lt is a further object of thepresent invention to provide a ferrofluidic solenoidthat will produce useable mechanical forces alonglmultiple axesor planes.

It is a yet furtherobject of the present invention to provide a ferrofluidic solenoidfthat is suitable for employment in multiples.

Briefly'described, the present invention` involves an electromechanical actuator embodied as a ferrofluidic device for producinga mechanical force,` or displacement, in response to ther application of electrical energy.

tuator` includes a ferromagnetic` fluidand an electric coil which are both `contained within an elastomeric capsule. Electrodes of thezcoil extend through thecapsule walls to permitthe application ofxelectric current lto the coil. The magnetic. eld produced by the coil,

when energized, causes-.redistribution of the fluidic mass withinfthezcapsuleand, asa consequence, deformation of thecapsule Further objects andv the.l manyr attendant advantages of the invention-will. befmore readilyappreciated as :the samek becomesbetterrunderstood; by reference to the following detailed description which is `to beconsidered 'in connection. with. the: accompanyingv drawings. whereinV like. reference symbols:designatewlike. parts:

throughout the figures` thereof.

BRIE'FYDESCRIPTION OF THEDRAWINGS FIG. lAisa schematicdiagramiof an electromechanical actuator in accordancewith thepresent invention.

FIG. lBis a schematic diagram illustrating theactuator of FIG. 1A inxan unenergizedfconditionand maintained under a pretensioning load.

FIG. 1C is aschematic,diagram*illustratingthe actuator of FIG. 1B in anienergized condition.

FIG. 2 is a schematic. diagramillustrating an exemr plary manner; in whichsmultiple electromechanical actuators, in accordance with: the subject invention, may be usedvto provide a peristaltic'device.A

, FIG; 3 is 'aschematicdiagram illustrating an electromechanicalactuator, in accordance with the subject invention, employed `as a valve.

FIG. 4 is-a schematicidiagrarn illustrating how an electromechanical actuator,l in accordance with the subject invention, maybe employedasa muscle for prosthetic devices.


EMBODIMENTy Referring now to FIG. l of thedrawings, aferrofluidic solenoid in accordance with .thepresent invention ately extended .throughthe wall of the capsule 14. The" terminal wires 16` and@ 18 are .preferably looped, as shown at 20-and 22,- within the'capsule` l4-to prevent More particularly, the subject yelectromechanical ac-r breakage when the capsule 14 is defonned in a manner to be described hereinafter.

The ferromagnetic fluid 12 is preferably a colloidal, non-flocculating, suspension of high permeability particles in an inert liquid.'Such a ferromagnetic fluid l2 is marketed by Ferrofluidics Corp., Burlington, Massachusetts. It is to be understood that although the abovedescribed ferromagnetic fluid is preferred, any other appropriate medium such as a mixture of particulate material may be used.

The elastomeric capsule 14 may be a moderately elongated hollow shell having' a closed wall as shown. The capsule is sized to permit enclosure-of the fluid 12 and the coil l which is roughly centered within the capsule. Any appropriate and well known elastomeric material may be used.

As shown in FIG. 1A, a pair of end arms 24 and 26, or other mechanical connections, are attached to the respective ends 28 and 30 of the capsule 14. These end arms 24 and 26 may be attached to the respective ends 28 and 30 in any well known manner, and may be stiff or flexible as necessary to accommodate the particular use of the solenoid.

Operationally, the net force and stroke produced by the ferrofluidic solenoid are dependent on a complex relation of elastic, hydrostatic and magnetic effects. Application of current to the coil l0 results in an effective pressure increase in the fluid 12. If this pressure is considered to be transmitted hydrostatically through the fluid l2, the elastomeric capsule 14 expands in diameter and contracts in length analogously to blowing up a toy balloon. This deformation of the capsule 14 is illustrated by FIG. 1C showing a substantially spherical shape.

As an example, the capsule 14 may be maintained under a pretensioning load as illustrated by FIG. 1B. The end arms 24 and 26 are useful for this purpose. As shown, such a pretensioning load will cause the capsule 14 to be longitudinally expanded. This may be accomplished, for example, by having one of the end arms 24 mechanically grounded by connection to an effectively stationary object 32. The opposing end arm 26 may then be pulled away from the stationary end 28 to have the longitudinal dimension of the capsule 14 increased.

Referring again to FIG. 1C, energization of the coil l0 by application of electrical current to the terminal wires 16 and 18 creates a magnetic field, the flux lines of which are generally illustrated by the dotted lines within the capsule 14. The magnetic field operates to, in effect, redistribute the magnetic fluid l2 within the capsule 14 to thereby deform the shape of the capsule 14. As shown this deformation ofthe capsule 14 is characterized by having the ends 28 and 30 thereof withdrawn and the central wall area lprotruded, i.e., axial compression and radial expansion. Simply considered, the stronger the magnetic field created by the current l0, the more pronounced will be the deformation of the capsule 14. The strength of the magnetic field is, of course, dependent on the amount of current applied to the coil l0 via the terminals 16 and 18. Accordingly, the ferrofluidic solenoid of the present invention may act as a current-to-motion transducer in that an increased application of current will produce a corresponding larger displacement of the end 30 with respect to the end 28. In the alternative, the ferrofluidic solenoid may be viewed as a current-to-force transducer in that the increased application of current will produce larger forces at the ends 28 and 30.

Considering the subject solenoid in greater detail, the following assumptions are made: the elastomer is considered to be Gaussian, anisotropic, in the noncrystalline extension range (X -4), a right circular cylindrical shell, and of constant volume (X l X, X3 l); and the fluid 12 is assumed to be homogeneous and incompressible.

Considering the contribution of the capsule 14 to solenoid operation, the extension of an elastomer sheet under biaxial tensile stresses, Sl and S2, is described by the equation: l

Si S2 G(X1z "Xz2) Eq. l

where Xl and X2 are the extension ratios and G is an elastic modulus derived from the free energy of the elastomer:

G NkT= pRgT/Mc where Nc is the number of polymer chains per unit volume, K is Boltzmann's constant, T is absolute tempera-` s, PR/zf mm The orthogonal tangential stress is the shell hoop stress:

s2 PR/r The operating solenoid has an internal pressure, P, the sum of the initial pressure, P and magnetic pressure, PM, and is under initial plus final tensilel loads, F I and FF. Because of the expansible nature of the shell wall, the unstressed unit length, Lo, radius, Ro, and thickness,

to, are multiplied by the extension/compression ratios X1, X2, and'Xa, respectively,to define initial parameters, i.e., L, LX R, RX.and t, toXa. The solenoid on condition is then described by the equation:

Next considering the contribution of the ferrofluid l2- to solenoid operation, the Bernoulliequation for a ferromagnetic fluid includes a term for'a` scalar magnetic pressure: l

where y., is the perm eability of free space, M is the exact magnetization, M is'the mean magnetization, and H is the magnetic field intensity. M has the asymptotes xH/2 for very small elds and saturation magnetization M.; both M, and xl, the initial susceptibility, are'charac` (typically where N is the number of turns in the coil, I is the current, l, is the incremental circuit length, and A, is the area along 1,. Hence it is seen that the magnetic pressure is not constant, but varies with the cross-section of the magnetic flux path, and in addition, with distance from the coil, in very large diameter solenoids.

The simplest case neglects end effects and assumes that the flux area Ac outside the coil is equal to that inside. Then, for a coil length lc:

and' H 0.21rNl/1c Eq. 1o

The magnetic pressure is then:

Pm 0.21m 17 N 1/1c The axial extension ratio, Xb could be divided into components for the linear stretching due to initial preload (X l) andfor contraction resulting from radial expansion (X 1F l) in the absence of preload; the output stroke length is the sum of these components. A similar but inverse relation exists for X2 andv stroke length. The following special cases are for unity ratios with respect to the unstressed state only; the actual zero stroke conditions are more complex.

FMAX C Ac NI/lc Eq. l5

where C is a pull coefficient of about 0.01 and the other quantities are as previously defined.

The off condition of the ferrofluidic solenoid is described by F p= and PM 0. Assuming the unstressed filled capsule to be at ambient pressure, this is equivalent to a uniaxially stressed tube, such that equation reduces to:

Xi/'TTRn F1 PlRo 2taG(Xix UXI) Eq. l6

If the preload tension, FI, is released, the remaining internal pressure declines, and X1 approaches l. Thus the isolated solenoid requires no external return spring, as

` do conventional solenoids.

The maximum outputy stroke is obtainable when the i radial extension radio, X2, is unity. Equation (5) then becomes:

For comparison, the maximum force produced by a conventional solenoid is:

As may be apparentffrom the Py-H relation in equa-l tion (6), the assumption that pressure within the capsule 14 is hydrostatic and uniform is an oversimplification. The magnetic pressure is maximum at the section of the magnetic circuit with least area, whether within the core area of the coil 10 or the annulus area surroundingthe coil l0. This pressure is superimposed on any pre-existing hydrostatic pressure. So long las the fluid l2 is not appreciably saturated, all the flux is contained by the fluid 12, and there will be a minimum fieldintensity at the extreme ends of the capsule 14. The on configuration of the capsule 14'is not spherical, as if hydrostatically inflated, but is appleshaped or toroidal, due to the tendency of the fluid to follow the lines of flux.

As the magnetic fluid 12 approaches magnetic satu-` ration, an increasing proportion of the flux will be forced into the spacesurrounding the capsule 14. This results in a lessening rate of increase in magnetic pressure, but should cause an additional traction force to be exerted across the capsule end interface, equivalent to an exterior pressure:

From the foregoing discussion itis clear that the subject ferrofluidic solenoid has several advantages over conventional solenoids rand over prior art electromechanical actuators using a ferromagnetic fluid. Among these advantages are the elimination of the conventional air gap which results in greater efficiency of operation. Also, magnetic fluxv leakage is minimal up to the fluid saturation level since the coil l0 is completely surrounded by the magnetically permeable material in the fluid l2. Further, the simplicity and compactness ofthe subject inventionpermits the device to be economically manufactured and readily employed, or staged, in

multples or in tandem.

Referring to FIG. 2, an exemplary peristaltic device f is illustrated as including three solenoids 34, 36 and 38l connected in tandem. ln operation, an end solenoid 38 the interior surface of the conduit 42 to effectively anchor the leading end of the peristaltic device. Energization of each successive solenoid, i.e., solenoid 36 and then solenoid 38, will cause the cable 40 to be pulled through the conduit 42 for a distance equal to the summed work strokes of the solenoids 36 and 38. The dotted lines in FIG. 2 illustrate the movement produced after energization of the first two solenoids 34 and 36. Upon all of the solenoids connected in tandem being energized, the leading solenoid 34 is de-energized, fol lowed by the de-energization of each successive solenoid. Clearly, this results in the string of solenoids being extended for their'full ambient length whereupon the solenoids can again be successively energized. In the de-energization cycle, the trailing solenoid 38 anchors the trailing end of the peristaltic device to permit 'the desired inward extension of the preceding solenoids 34 and 36. It is to be understood that any practical number of solenoids may be staged despite the foregoing example involving only three solenoids.

Referring to FIG. 3, a ferrof'luidic solenoid in accordance with the present invention may be used as a valve. As shown, a solenoid 46 can be situated within a fluid conducting conduit 48. The ends 50 and S2 of the solenoid 46 may be appropriately supported by a pair of supporting rings 54 and 56, respectively, which are secured within the conduit 48. As may be appreciated, the end connectors 50 and 52 may be somewhatl flexible to permit easy axialA compression of the solenoid 46 and thereby not significantly impede the radial expansion thereof upon energization. Again, the dotted lines in FIG. 3, illustrate the solenoid 46, when ener gized. As shown, the energized solenoid 46 serves to completely block the inner passage of the conduit 48 such that the flow of fluid through the conduit 48 is stopped.

In yet another exemplary application, the ferrofluidic solenoid of the present invention may be used as a muscle", or the like, for prosthetic devices. As shown by FIG. 4, a solenoid 58 can be connected between a pair of pivotally connected sections 60 and 62 to produce a closing motion when energized. Deenergization of the solenoid 58 would then produce a spreading or opening movement of the respective sections 60 and 62.

It is to be noted that each of the applications illustrated by FIGS. 2, 3 and 4 are exemplary and that for simplicity of illustration, the two electrical connectors for the respective solenoids have not been shown. However, it is clear that such electrical connectors may be connected to the coils of the respective solenoids in any suitable manner and collectively situated to permit the application of current thereto.

From the foregoing description, it is now clear that the present invention provides an improved ferrofluidic solenoid that is compact and simple of construction and which is characterized by a lack of significant magnetic leakage. It is also apparent that the subject soley noid may be readily used to form tandem stages and is readily applicable to a multitude of different uses.

While a preferred embodiment of the present invention has been described hereinabove, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description and shown in the accompanying drawings be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense and that all modications, constructions and arrangements which fall within the scope and spirit of the invention may be made.

What is claimed is:

1. An electromechanical actuator for producing mechanical movement in response to the application of electric current, the actuator comprising:

a flexible closed shell capable of omnidirectional de-V formation having an interior cavity formed by the wall thereof;

an electrical coil maintained unattached in said cavity so that the entire shell is relatively movable to said electrical coil;

means for energizing said electrical coil including a pair of terminals extending through said wall of said shell and connected to said electrical coil;

a magnetizable fluid completely surrounding said suspended coil and fully occupying said cavity to exert a hydrostatic pressure on said shell, said shell being deformed when a magnetic pressure is created in said magnetizable fluid within said shell by the application of current through said terminals to energize said coil.

2. The electromechanical actuator defined by claim l, said shell comprising an elastomeric material forming a continuous closed wall and an oblong configuration when subject to only said hydrostatic pressure, said fluid comprising a ferromagnetic fluid responsive to a magnetic field created by energization of said coil, said shell assuming a substantially spherical shape when subject to said magnetic pressure. 1

3. A ferrofluidic solenoid comprising: y

a flexible capsule having a hollow interior area formed by the wall thereof;

a coil having an open bore positioned in said hollow` interior area so that the entire wall is movable rela-` tive to said coil; l l

means connected to said coil for permitting the appli cation of electrical current to said coil;

a magnetizable fluid contained within said capsule.'

4. The actuator defined by claim l, said shell com` prising an elastomeric material.

5. The actuator defined by claim 1, said fluid com-,

prising a ferromagnetic fluid.

l v6. The actuator defined by claim 1, said fluid comprising a colloidal, non-flocculating suspension of high permeability particles in an inert liquid.

7. The actuator defined by claim 1 further including4 output members connected Aat opposing points along the exterior of said shell for transmitting mechanical forces developed by deformation of said shell to arti!A cles connected thereto.

s. The actuator defined by claim 7, said shell con-4 prising an elastomeric material and having an oblongv spherical configuration, said coil having the longitudinal axis thereof superimposed with the longitudinal axis" of said shell, said output members connected to said shell at opposing points on said shell intersecting said longitudinal axis.

9. The actuator defined by claim 8, said fluid comprising a ferromagnetic fluid.

10. The ferrofluidic solenoid defined by claim 3, said capsule comprising an elastomeric shell having a continuous closed wall :and an oblong configuration, said fluid comprising a ferromagnetic fluid responsive to in troduction to a magnetic field created by energization of said coil.

1l. The ferrofluidic solenoid defined by claim l0,

lenoid further including connecting arms secured to the exterior surface of said capsule at opposing points thereon intersecting said longitudinal axis of said capsule.

' fh *ya *fr

Patent Citations
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US2917599 *Apr 7, 1958Dec 15, 1959Tann CorpSignal responsive device
US3467927 *Mar 22, 1968Sep 16, 1969Thrust IncElectromagnetic actuating device
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4737717 *Mar 26, 1987Apr 12, 1988Siemens Medical Systems Inc.Magnetic field correction using a channel for positioning magnetic material
US5344129 *Dec 3, 1992Sep 6, 1994Tokai Rubber Industries, Ltd.Elastic mount having fluid chamber partially defined by oscillating plate actuated by moving coil in annular gap between two yokes connected to permanent magnet
US5394132 *Jul 20, 1993Feb 28, 1995Poil; James E.Magnetic motion producing device
US5450853 *Oct 22, 1993Sep 19, 1995Scimed Life Systems, Inc.Pressure sensor
US5471185 *Dec 6, 1994Nov 28, 1995Eaton CorporationElectrical circuit protection devices comprising conductive liquid compositions
US5717259 *Jan 11, 1996Feb 10, 1998Schexnayder; J. RodneyElectromagnetic machine
US8395466 *Dec 7, 2010Mar 12, 2013Dezheng ZhaoBionic telescopic matrix unit
US20120229237 *Dec 7, 2010Sep 13, 2012Dezheng ZhaoBionic telescopic matrix unit
EP0285852A1 *Mar 11, 1988Oct 12, 1988Siemens AktiengesellschaftMagnetic field correction using a channel for positioning magnetic material
U.S. Classification335/296, 335/297
International ClassificationF16K31/02, A61F2/50, A61F2/08, A61F2/72, H01F7/20, H01F7/08
Cooperative ClassificationH01F7/08, A61F2002/0894, A61F2/72, H01F7/20, F16K31/02
European ClassificationH01F7/08, F16K31/02, H01F7/20, A61F2/72