Dynamics of Fluidic Devices with Applications to Rotor Pitch Links

Open Access
Scarborough, Lloyd Harmon
Graduate Program:
Mechanical Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
January 31, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Christopher Rahn, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Christopher Rahn, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Edward C Smith, Committee Member
  • Kevin L Koudela, Committee Member
  • Martin Wesley Trethewey, Committee Member
  • vibration isolation
  • pitch link loads
  • fluidic pitch link
  • rotorcraft vibration
  • helicopter vibration
  • rotorcraft performance
Coupling a Fluidic Flexible Matrix Composite (F2MC) to an air-pressurized fluid port produces a fundamentally new class of tunable vibration isolator. This fluidlastic device provides significant vibration reduction at an isolation frequency that can be tuned over a broad frequency range. The material properties and geometry of the F2MC element, as well as the port inertance, determine the isolation frequency. A unique feature of this device is that the port inertance depends on pressure so the isolation frequency can be adjusted by changing the air pressure. For constant port inertance, the isolation frequency is largely independent of the isolated mass so the device is robust to changes in load. A nonlinear model is developed to predict isolator length and port inertance. The model is linearized and the frequency response calculated. Experiments agree with theory, demonstrating a tunable isolation range from 9 Hz to 36 Hz and transmitted force reductions of up to 60 dB at the isolation frequency. Replacing rigid pitch links on rotorcraft with coupled fluidic devices has the potential to reduce the aerodynamic blade loads transmitted through the pitch links to the swashplate. Analytical models of two fluidic devices coupled with three different fluidic circuits are derived. These passive fluidlastic systems are tuned, by varying the fluid inertances and capacitances of each fluidic circuit, to reduce the transmitted pitch-link loads. The different circuit designs result in transmitted pitch link loads reduction at up to three main rotor harmonics. The simulation results show loads reduction at the targeted out-of-phase and in-phase harmonics of up to 88% and 93%, respectively. Experimental validation of two of the fluidic circuits demonstrates loads reduction of up to 89% at the out-of-phase isolation frequencies and up to 81% at the in-phase isolation frequencies. Replacing rigid pitch links on rotorcraft with fluidic pitch links changes the blade torsional impedance. At low frequency, the pitch link must have high impedance to pass through the pilot’s collective and cyclic commands to control the aircraft. At higher frequencies, however, the pitch-link impedance can be tuned to change the blade pitching response to higher harmonic loads. Active blade control to produce higher harmonic pitch motions has been shown to reduce hub loads and increase rotor efficiency. This work investigates whether fluidic pitch links can passively provide these benefits. An analytical model of a fluidic pitch link is derived and incorporated into a rotor aeroelastic simulation for a rotor similar to that of the UH-60. Eighty-one simulations with varied fluidic pitch link parameters demonstrate that their impedance can be tailored to reduce rotor power and all six hub forces and moments. While no impedance was found that simultaneously reduced all components, the results include cases with reductions in the lateral 4/rev hub force of up to 91% and 4/rev hub pitching moment of up to 67%, and main rotor power of up to 5%.