Structural Dynamics and Adaptive Structures

Structural Dynamics and Adaptive Structures

Aerospace vehicles deform during flight. To assess structural performance, structural dynamicists analyze and measure the response of such vehicles to dynamic loading. Such loading may take the form of varying external and internal forces and pressures, as well as imposed motions. In some cases, these loads (in addition to the intrinsic inertia, damping, and stiffness loads) may depend on the response, as is the case for aerodynamic loads and actively controlled response.

Unwanted structural vibration can result in overstressed structural members, fatigue and damage, pointing errors, and noise. The related field of aeroelasticity addresses interactions among aerodynamics, structures, dynamics, and perhaps controls (aeroservoelasticity). Under certain conditions, these interactions can lead to potentially disastrous instabilities like divergence and flutter.

Penn State faculty member and student researchers address ways to effect passive and active vibration control, as well as ways to exploit structural dynamics for other purposes such as structural health monitoring, energy harvesting, crashworthiness, and de-icing. These approaches involve modeling, design, optimization, materials, and active control applied to fixed-wing aircraft, rotorcraft, spacecraft, launch vehicles, and engines. Adaptive structures research involves the use of coupled-field materials like piezoelectrics for sensing and actuation.

Key Faculty:

  • George A. Lesieutre
  • Jose L. Palacios
  • Edward C. Smith


The Penn State Department of Aerospace Engineering, established in 1961 and the only aerospace engineering department in Pennsylvania, is consistently recognized as one of the top aerospace engineering departments in the nation, and is also an international leader in aerospace education, research, and engagement. Both our undergraduate and graduate programs are ranked 14th nationally by U.S. News & World Report, while one in 25 holders of a B.S. degree in aerospace engineering in the U.S. earned it from Penn State. Our students are consistently among the most highly recruited by industry, government, and graduate schools nationwide.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry. Through an innovative curriculum and world-class instruction that reflects current industry practice and embraces future trends, Penn State Aerospace Engineering graduates emerge as broadly educated, technically sound aerospace engineers who will become future leaders in a critical industry

Department of Aerospace Engineering

229 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2569