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Nonlinear Dynamics in Lattices of Bistable Elements

posted on 11.12.2020, 22:16 by Myungwon Hwang
Lattices composed of bistable elements are of great significance across various fields of science and engineering due to their ability to support a class of solitary waves, called transition waves. Common with all solitary waves, transition waves carry highly concentrated energy with minimal degradation and thus have many useful engineering applications, such as extreme waveguides, bandgap transmission, vibration absorption, and energy harvesting. The rich dynamics arising from the strong nonlinearities of the constitutive bistable microstructures still have much to be unveiled for the practical implementation of the transition waves in real-world engineering structures. Especially, the quasi-particle characteristics of the transition waves can potentially address the performance limits posed by the unit cell size in linear metamaterials.

In this thesis, we first present an input-independent generation of transition waves in the lattices of asymmetric bistable unit cells when snap-through transitions occur at any site within the lattice. The resulting responses are invariant across the lattice except near the boundaries. These characteristics imply useful applications in broadband energy harvesting, exploiting the highly concentrated energy of the transition waves. We further observe that the inherent lattice discreteness induces dominantly monochromatic oscillatory tail following the main transition wave. This radiated energy of the tail can always be efficiently harvested through resonant transduction regardless of the input excitations. This type of bistable lattice transforms any input disturbance into an output form that can be conveniently transduced; thus, energy harvesting becomes an inherent metamaterial property of the bistable lattice.

To enhance the responses further for improved energy harvesting capability, we introduce engineered defects in the form of a mass impurity, inhomogeneous inter-site stiffness, and their combinations, achieving localization of energy at desired sites. Remarkably, we also observe a long-lived breather-like mode for the first time in this type of lattice. To enhance the tail motions globally across the lattice, we investigate the responses in a set of bistable lattices with the same mass and elastic densities but with different lattice spacing distances (or lattice discreteness). From the available tail energy, we observe a significant increase in the harvesting capability with the increased lattice discreteness.

Next, the effect of functional grading on the onsite and inter-site stiffnesses are investigated to augment the control of the transition waves in the bistable lattices. The unidirectionality still remains in the direction of decreasing stiffness, while a boomerang-like wave reversal occurs in the direction of increasing stiffness. Both the compression and rarefaction transition waves are allowed to propagate, enabling continuous transmission of the transition waves without complex resetting mechanisms, thus expanding the bistable lattices' functionality for practical applications.

The observed input-independent dynamics of the one-dimensional bistable lattices can be extended to higher-dimensional metastructures by allowing macrostructural flexibility. Metabeams composed of spring-joined bistable elements are subjected to in-plane sinusoidal input at the microstructural level, and the out-of-plane responses at the macrosctructural level are measured. As long as transition waves are triggered within the metabeam, the most dominant output frequency occurs near the natural frequency of the macroscopic structure regardless of the input excitations initiating the transition waves, yielding energy transfer between uncorrelated frequencies.

Finally, high-fidelity in-house numerical solvers are developed for the massively parallelized computation of the problems involving generic bistable architectures, addressing the problem size limit. The improved numerical solution accuracy and computational performance, compared to those of commercial solvers, provide great potential to discover new dynamics by drastically expanding the accessible analysis regimes.

The experiments, simulations, and theoretical contributions in this thesis illustrate the possibilities afforded by strongly nonlinear phenomena to tailor the dynamics of materials systems. Importantly, the presented results show mechanisms to affect global dynamic properties unconstrained by the unit cell size, thereby offering new routes to extreme dynamics beyond current metamaterial architectures.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Andres F. Arrieta

Additional Committee Member 2

Fabio Semperlotti

Additional Committee Member 3

Carlo Scalo

Additional Committee Member 4

Pablo D. Zavattieri