Development of Magnetorheological Elastomers (MREs) for Strength and Fatigue Resistance
Natural rubber (NR)-based magnetorheological elastomers (MREs) exhibiting a reasonable switching effect were fabricated and tested. They were strong enough for use in automotive applications but still needed protection against ageing. Ethylene–propylene–diene rubber (EPDM) is a cost-effective material that is frequently used in the automotive industry because of its advantageous range of properties. With these applications in mind, it was a logical progression to the development of EPDM-based MREs. Unlike strain-crystallising NR, EPDM requires reinforcement to render its tensile and fatigue strength suitable for use in most applications. While small amounts of carbon black were sufficient for the NR-based MREs, a trade-off between non-reinforcing carbonyl iron powder (CIP) and reinforcing carbon black fillers was necessary to imbue the EPDM-based MREs with reasonably good mechanical properties. With a limit on the quantities of fillers that could be added, attention was turned to the matrix material itself and the blend of polymers employed in EPDM2 and EPDM3 were chosen in order to strengthen the EPDM-based MREs by enhancing polymer molecular weight and reinforcement. However, an unwanted effect of the stronger polymer network was the high-viscosity matrix in these compounds which hindered the alignment of magnetic particles early in the vulcanisation process. This led to poorer magnetic particle orientation, resulting in a more homogenous dispersion of the CIP and consequently produced MRE specimens that were more isotropic than anisotropic. Subsequently the switching effect of these materials was lower than would be obtained in MREs with a low viscosity (say, 40 MU) matrix. It was not feasible to sacrifice reinforcing carbon black in these compounds, but there are other possibilities open to the rubber compounder. An alternative means of reducing the viscosity of EPDM3 is simply to double the content of softening oil. This would have a slight but minimal negative effect on the tensile properties of the material. The addition of a small amount of retardant to delay vulcanisation and extend the time available for orientation of the magnetic particles into chains would also be beneficial. This would also reduce the modulus of the compound, but the reduction would again be negligible. As in all material design, there is a trade-off to be made in choosing the right combination of properties, but both of these changes would result in the development of an effective magnetorheological compound.
The support of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF, Grant no. 16SV3757) is gratefully acknowledged.
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