III. Magneto-rheological fluids
  • Introduction

A magnetorheological fluid (MR fluid) is a type of smart fluid in a carrier fluid, usually a type of oil. When subjected to a magnetic field, the fluid greatly increases its apparent viscosity, to the point of becoming a viscoelastic solid. Importantly, the yield stress of the fluid when in its active ("on") state can be controlled very accurately by varying the magnetic field intensity. The upshot of this is that the fluid's ability to transmit force can be controlled with an electromagnet, which gives rise to its many possible control-based applications.

  • Material behaviour

To understand and predict the behavior of the MR fluid it is necessary to model the fluid mathematically, a task slightly complicated by the varying material properties (such as yield stress). smart fluids are such that they have a low viscosity in the absence of an applied magnetic field, but become quasi-solid with the application of such a field. In the case of MR fluids (and ER), the fluid actually assumes properties comparable to a solid when in the activated ("on") state, up until a point of yield (the shear stress above which shearing occurs). This yield stress (commonly referred to as apparent yield stress) is dependent on the magnetic field applied to the fluid, but will reach a maximum point after which increases in magnetic flux density have no further effect, as the fluid is then magnetically saturatedexternal image Smart_fluid_on_state.jpg


  • Applications

Mechanical engineering

Magnetorheological dampers of various applications have been and continue to be developed. These dampers are mainly used in heavy industry with applications such as heavy motor damping, operator seat/cab damping in construction vehicles, and more.
As of 2006, materials scientists and mechanical engineers are collaborating to develop stand-alone seismic dampers which, when positioned anywhere within a building, will operate within the building's resonance frequency, absorbing detrimental shock waves and oscillations within the structure, giving these dampers the ability to make any building earthquake-proof, or at least earthquake-resistant


Magnetorheological finishing, a magnetorheological fluid-based optical polishing method, has proven to be highly precise. It was used in the construction of the Hubble Space Telescope's corrective lens.

Human prosthesis

Magnetorheological dampers are utilized in semi-active human prosthetic legs. Much like those used in military and commercial helicopters, a damper in the prosthetic leg decreases the shock delivered to the patients leg when jumping, for example. This results in an increased mobility and agility for the patient.