Spatial chaos as a governing factor for imperfection sensitivity in shell buckling

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Shell buckling is known for its extreme sensitivity to initial imperfections. It is generally understood that this sensitivity is caused by subcritical (unstable) buckling, whereby initial geometric imperfections rapidly erode the idealised buckling load of the perfect shell. However, it is less appreciated that subcriticality also creates a strong proclivity for spatially localised buckling modes. The spatial multiplicity of localisations implies a large set of possible trajectories to instability—also known as spatial chaos—with each trajectory affine to a particular imperfection. Using a toy model, namely a link system on a softening elastic foundation, we show that spatial chaos leads to a large spread in buckling loads even for seemingly indistinguishable random imperfections of equal amplitude. By imposing a dominant imperfection, the strong sensitivity to random imperfections is ameliorated. The ability to control the equilibrium trajectory to buckling via dominant imperfections or elastic tailoring creates interesting possibilities for designing imperfection-insensitive shells
Original languageEnglish
Article number032205
Number of pages6
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2019

Structured keywords

  • Bristol Composites Institute ACCIS


  • localisation
  • buckling
  • instability
  • nonlinearity
  • shells


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