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Wrinkling of Dielectric Elastomer Membranes


Zheng, Ling (2009) Wrinkling of Dielectric Elastomer Membranes. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/RTAB-GX13.


Wrinkling of thin membranes due to different in-plane loading and boundary conditions has drawn attention of researchers in structural engineering since the development of thin webs for early aircraft structures. More recently, prestressed lightweight membrane structures have been proposed for future space missions, for example solar sails, the next generation space telescope sunshield and space-based radar systems. These structures are often partially wrinkled during operation. The formation of wrinkles alters the load paths and the structural stiffness of the membranes. More importantly its occurrence degrades the surface accuracy of these structures, which is a key design parameter.

This dissertation focuses on wrinkling of thin rectangular membranes subjected to uniaxial tension and investigates the onset and profiles of wrinkles using both experimental and numerical approaches.

An optical method, which integrates fringe projection method with four-frame phase-shifting technique, pre-conditioned conjugate gradient phase unwrapping algorithm and series-expansion carrier removal technique was developed in order to measure the full-field out-of-plane displacement of membranes, and an optical system was constructed including a uniaxial tension testbed, a LCD projector and a CCD camera. A series of uniaxial tensile tests were carried out on silicone rubber membranes of varying dimensions and aspect ratios in order to investigate the effect of geometric factors such as membrane dimension and aspect ratio on wrinkling onset; and a series of measurements were performed on each membrane at several desired strain levels to understand the evolution of the wrinkles, in particular wrinkle amplitude and wavelength.

A numerical study was carried out using the commercial finite element software ABAQUS to further understand the important characteristics of wrinkling of thin membranes observed in the physical model. Geometrically nonlinear finite element models of membrane structures were constructed with thin-shell elements. A series of simulations were carried out for different membrane dimensions. The critical buckling load and buckling modes was predicted for each dimension using a pre-buckling eigenvalue analysis. The desirable buckling mode was selected and introduced into the structure as a geometric imperfection. The formation and growth of wrinkles were simulated in the post-buckling analysis.

Finally, an idea of suppressing wrinkle instabilities of dielectric elastomer membranes using through-thickness electric field was proposed and verified in both experiment and numerical simulations.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:critical buckling strain; dielectric actuation; dielectric elastomer; finite elment; fringe projection method; membrane; thin shell; wrinkle amplitude; wrinkle onset; wrinkle wavelength; wrinkling
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Mechanical Engineering
Minor Option:Applied Physics
Awards:Charles D. Babcock Award, 2007.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami (advisor)
  • Bhattacharya, Kaushik (advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami (chair)
  • Bhattacharya, Kaushik (co-chair)
  • Daraio, Chiara
  • Pellegrino, Sergio
Defense Date:11 September 2008
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-09222008-161217
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:3701
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:24 Oct 2008
Last Modified:26 Nov 2019 19:14

Thesis Files

PDF (PHD_thesis.pdf) - Final Version
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