Piezohydraulic Actuator Design and Modeling Using a Lumped-Parameter Approach

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

The concept of piezohydraulic actuation is to transfer the reciprocal small stroke displacement of piezoceramics into unidirectional motion by frequency rectification through a hydraulic fluid. It takes advantage of the high force capabilities that piezoelectric materials have and couples it with very stiff media such as hydraulic fluid to amplify and create this unidirectional motion. Inlet and outlet valves are connected to a pumping chamber where pressure is built by the displacement of the piezoelectric material and released by the opening of the outlet valve, thus achieving a variable flow rate that is used to push a hydraulic cylinder. Loads may be connected to this hydraulic cylinder for measuring/achieving mechanical power.

As part of this research, a benchtop piezohydraulic actuator with active piezohydraulic valves has been developed and the concept of piezohydraulic actuation has been demonstrated. Displacement of a hydraulic cylinder by driving a piezoelectric stack has been achieved while the cylinder was loaded or unloaded. Lumped-parameter state-space models have been developed in order to simulate the dynamics of the active valves and entire actuator system. The model simulates the chamber pressure, displacement of the hydraulic cylinder, and power of the piezohydraulic unit. A four-stage cycle simulation was used to model the pumping operation and dynamic response of the system.

Experimental results demonstrate the importance of fluid compressibility, valve timing, and fluid circuit components in the optimization of the output power of the actuation system. An array of different timing tests run on the inlet and outlet valves shows that their timing is crucial to the performance of the system. Also shown is that the optimal timing conditions change slightly while under different loads. When operating at higher frequencies (above 140 Hz), it is shown that the hydraulic fluid circuit does not respond quickly enough for the piston to fully extend against the fluid and loaded cylinder. There is not sufficient time when operating at higher frequencies to push all the fluid from the chamber into the hydraulic cylinder, operation is too fast for the dynamics of the fluid circuit.

The four stage lumped-parameter model achieves good approximations of the experimental results when the load inertia was neglected while operating at frequencies below 120 Hz and under loads at or below 12.825 kg. Memory limitations caused the number of elements included in the lumped-parameter model to be limited, and are believed to be the source of the errors for the higher operation frequencies and loads. The model never converged due to the lack of elements, and the simulated system did not respond quickly enough to accurately model the fluid exiting the chamber. When operating at frequencies above the 120 Hz value, this error in modeling the fluid exiting the valves becomes very important. The simulation predicts higher values than the experiment and fails to correlate to the actual results at the higher frequencies and while under the higher loads. The errors at higher loads may also be attributed to the neglected inertia.

The most recent tests on the benchtop set-up were all run with a pre-pressure value of 190 psi, a piston duty cycle of 50%, valve duty cycles of 40% for each, and a 5% outlet valve offset. Slightly better operation performance might be achieved at frequencies higher than 140 Hz by increasing the piston duty cycle and varying the valve parameters. Also, increaing the pre-pressure of the fluid may help by stiffening the system to create a faster response, however this will have an adverse effect also by creating more force against piston motion. Lastly, the hydraulic cylinder was built for high pressures and had considerable friction associated with it. Obtaining a different cylinder with less friction may also help the response time of the fluid circuit.

State-space Model, Piezohydraulic Actuator Design Concepts, Active Valves, Piezohydraulic Actuator, Lumped-parameter Fluid Model