Assistant Professor of Solid and Structural Mechanics

Flutter and divergence instability in the Pflüger's column: experimental evidence of the Ziegler's destabilization paradox

Flutter instability in elastic structures subject to follower load, the most important cases being the famous Beck's and Pflüger's columns (two elastic rods in a cantilever configuration, with an additional concentrated mass at the end of the rod in the latter case), have attracted, and still attract, a thorough research interest. In this field, the most important issue is the validation of the model itself of follower force, a nonconservative action which was harshly criticized and never realized in practice for structures with diffused elasticity. An experimental setup to introduce follower tangential forces at the end of an elastic rod was designed, realized, validated, and tested, in which the follower action is produced by exploiting Coulomb friction on an element (a freely-rotating wheel) in sliding contact against a at surface (realized by a conveyor belt). It is therefore shown that follower forces can be realized in practice and the first experimental evidence is given for both the flutter and divergence instabilities occurring in the Pflüger's column. In particular, load thresholds for the two instabilities are measured and the detrimental effect of dissipation on the critical load for flutter is experimentally demonstrated, while a slight increase in load is found for the divergence instability. The presented approach to follower forces discloses new horizons for testing self-oscillating structures and for exploring and documenting dynamic instabilities possible when nonconservative loads are applied.


Related paper:

Detecting singular weak-dissipation limit for flutter onset in reversible systems

A 'flutter machine' is introduced for the investigation of a singular interface between the classical and reversible Hopf bifurcations that is theoretically predicted to be generic in nonconservative reversible systems with vanishing dissipation. In particular, such a singular interface exists for the Pflüger viscoelastic column moving in a resistive medium, which is proven by means of the perturbation theory of multiple eigenvalues with the Jordan block. The laboratory setup, consisting of a cantilevered viscoelastic rod loaded by a positional force with non-zero curl produced by dry friction, demonstrates high sensitivity of the classical Hopf bifurcation onset to the ratio between the weak air drag and Kelvin-Voigt damping in the Pflüger column. Thus, the Whitney umbrella singularity is experimentally confirmed, responsible for discontinuities accompanying dissipationinduced instabilities in a broad range of physical contexts.




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