[Univ of Cambridge] [Dept of Engineering]

 Vibration of space membrane structures

S Kukathasan


Space membrane structures are generally large, lightweight and flexible, and there is the possibility that the vibration of these structures in space, caused by the other systems of the spacecraft, can affect their stability and performance.  Therefore, the development and validation of analysis methods for predicting their vibration behaviour have been at the forefront of recent research activities.  This dissertation attempts to develop new analysis techniques and experimental investigations for the vibration of space membrane structures.

First, finite element modelling techniques for predicting natural frequencies and mode shapes of flat, unwrinkled membranes in vacuum and in air are developed, and they are validated with closed-form analytical solutions and experimental results.  These modelling techniques are extended to a new type of curved-membrane reflectors, to investigate their vibration behaviour in vacuum and in air with different prestress levels, aperture diameters and number of rib dimensions of the reflector.

Second, finite element analysis techniques for predicting the linear vibration behaviour of corner-loaded wrinkled membranes in vacuum and in air are investigated, to choose a suitable analysis technique and to identify the effect of wrinkles on the vibration of the membrane.  The wrinkled membrane analysis technique is validated by comparing the in-air analysis results with an experiment performed in air.  The analysis results show that the linear vibration behaviour of wrinkled membranes in vacuum changes drastically when the wrinkle pattern changes from small amplitude corner wrinkles to large amplitude diagonal wrinkles.  On the other hand, the in-air vibration behaviour does not change noticeably with the wrinkle pattern.

Finally, the nonlinear vibration behaviour of wrinkled membrnaes is investigated, by performing experiments on a corner-loaded, square wrinkled membrane, to identify the mechanism for the recently reported higher damping of wrinkled membranes.  Experimental results show that wrinkled membranes appear to dissipate energy more quickly by vibrating simultaneously of the primary resonance and of its corresponding harmonics, the amplitudes and orders of which increase when the excitation amplitude increases.  A simple analytical model is developed to identify the geometrically nonlinear interaction behind the nonlinear behaviour observed in the experiment.


[Cambridge University | CUED | Structures Group | Geotechnical Group]

This page is maintained by rcb@eng.cam.ac.uk (last update 4 November 2003)