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.