Date of Award


Document Type

Master's report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


R. Andrew Swartz


Semi-active damping devices have been shown to be effective in mitigating unwanted vibrations in civil structures. These devices impart force indirectly through real-time alterations to structural properties. Simulating the complex behavior of these devices for laboratory-scale experiments is a major challenge. Commercial devices for seismic applications typically operate in the 2-10 kN range; this force is too high for small-scale testing applications where requirements typically range from 0-10 N. Several challenges must be overcome to produce damping forces at this level. In this study, a small-scale magneto-rheological (MR) damper utilizing a fluid absorbent metal foam matrix is developed and tested to accomplish this goal. This matrix allows magneto-rheological (MR) fluid to be extracted upon magnetic excitation in order to produce MR-fluid shear stresses and viscosity effects between an electromagnetic piston, the foam, and the damper housing. Dampers for uniaxial seismic excitation are traditionally positioned in the horizontal orientation allowing MR-fluid to gather in the lower part of the damper housing when partially filled. Thus, the absorbent matrix is placed in the bottom of the housing relieving the need to fill the entire device with MR-fluid, a practice that requires seals that add significant unwanted friction to the desired low-force device. The damper, once constructed, can be used in feedback control applications to reduce seismic vibrations and to test structural control algorithms and wireless command devices. To validate this device, a parametric study was performed utilizing force and acceleration measurements to characterize damper performance and controllability for this actuator. A discussion of the results is presented to demonstrate the attainment of the damper design objectives.