A Caltech Library Service

Mechanics of viscoelastic thin-walled structures


Kwok, Kawai (2013) Mechanics of viscoelastic thin-walled structures. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology.


Thin-walled structures made of polymers and reinforced polymer composites are prominent candidates for constructing large lightweight structures. A major challenge in designing polymer-based thin-walled structures is their time and temperature dependent behavior originating from material viscoelasticity and its interaction with the highly geometrically nonlinear response due to thinness of the walls. Although polymer viscoelasticity and geometric nonlinearity have been extensively studied, the mechanics of structures exhibiting both phenomena are not well understood.

This thesis presents a combination of experimental, numerical, and analytical investigations of the behavior of viscoelastic thin-walled structures. The first goal of this research is to establish general methods of analysis for two types of structural components, namely composite shells and polymer membranes, that will serve as the basis for full-scale structural analysis. The second goal is to demonstrate the capability of the developed methods by analyzing time and temperature dependent behavior of deployable structures and balloon structures.

In the study of deployable structures, the deployment and shape recovery processes after stowage are investigated. Fundamental features of viscoelastic deployable structures are studied first with homogeneous polymer beams and shells. A simple closed-form solution describing the shape evolution of a beam after stowage is proposed. The effects of rate and temperature on the bending instability of shells are revealed. Building on the understanding gained from the analysis of homogeneous structures, modeling techniques are developed for polymer composite structures. A micromechanical viscoelastic model for carbon fiber reinforced polymer thin shells is established through finite element homogenization and applied to evaluate the effects of long-term stowage in a representative composite deployable structure.

In the study of balloon structures, a membrane model is developed to study polymer balloon films with stress concentrations due to thickness variation. A nonlinear viscoelastic constitutive model is first formulated for the film material. The wrinkling instability behavior is incorporated into the model through correction of stress and strain states in the presence of wrinkling. Stress concentration factors in balloon films are predicted and measured with the membrane model and full-field displacement measurement techniques, respectively.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Mechanics of Materials and Structures, Viscoelasticity, Composites, Instability, Lightweight Structures
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Pellegrino, Sergio
Thesis Committee:
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami (chair)
  • Andrade, Jose E.
  • Kochmann, Dennis M.
  • Pellegrino, Sergio
Defense Date:24 May 2012
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06122012-184825377
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7164
Deposited By: Ka Wai Kwok
Deposited On:26 Jun 2012 21:53
Last Modified:26 Dec 2012 04:44

Thesis Files

PDF - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page