This article describes remarkable similarities in the nonlinear mechanical response of different active/smart materials despite fundamental differences in the underlying mechanisms associated with each material. Active/smart materials (i.e., piezoelectric (PZT-5H), magnetostrictive (Terfenol-D), and shape memory alloys (NiTi)) exhibit strong non-linear mechanical behavior produced by changing non-mechanical internal states such as polarization, magnetization, and phase/twin configuration. In active/smart materials the initial deformation proceeds linearly followed by a jump in strain associated with the transformation of an internal non-mechanical state. After the transformation, the mechanical response returns to linear elastic. Upon unloading, a residual strain is observed which can be recovered with the application of a corresponding external field (i.e., electric, magnetic, or thermal). Due to coupling between applied fields and non-mechanical internal states, mechanical deformation is also a function of applied external fields. At a critical applied field, the residual strain is eliminated, providing repeatable cyclic characteristics that can be used in passive damping applications. Even though different intrinsic processes (i.e., polarization, magnetization, and phase/twin variant composition) govern the deformation of each material, their macroscopic behavior is explained using a unified volume fraction concept. That is, the deformation of piezoelectric material is described in terms of the volume fraction of ferroelectric domains with polarization parallel or orthogonal to the applied load; the deformation of magnetostrictive materials is described in terms of the volume fraction of magnetic domains with magnetization parallel or orthogonal to the applied load; and the deformation of shape memory material is described in terms of the volume fraction of twin variants that are oriented favorably to the applied load. Although the qualitative behavior of each material is similar, the average magnitude of stress required to induce non-linearity varies from ~10 MPa for Terfenol-D to ~65 MPa for PZT-5H to ~300 MPa for NiTi shape memory alloy. It is hypothesized that a composite material made of these materials connected in series would exhibit passive damping over a wide range of applied stress.

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