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Chapter 2

2.6

VARIATIONAL FORMULATION OF PLATE BENDING PROBLEMS

It is known from the theory of elasticity that governing equations for stresses, strains, and displacements can be represented in the differential form. However, this is not a unique possible formulation of the problem for finding the stress–strain field of an elastic body. The problem of determining stresses, strains, and displacements can be reduced to some definite integral of one or another type of these functions called functionals. Then, the functions themselves (stresses, strains, and displacements) reflecting a real state of a body can be found from conditions of extremum for this functional. The mathematical techniques of such an approach is studied in the division of mathematics called the calculus of variation. Therefore, some postulates and statements that formulate properties of these functionals in the theory of elasticity are referred to as variational principles. The latter represent some basic theorems expressed in the form of integral equalities connecting stresses, strains, and displacements throughout the volume of a body and based on the properties of the work done by external and internal forces. A variety of powerful and efficient approximate methods for analysis of various linear and nonlinear problems of solid mechanics are based on the variational principles. Some of these methods will be described further in Chapter 6. 2.6.1 Strain energy of plates

A functional is a scalar quantity depending on some function or several functions, as from independent variables. The functional can be treated as a function of an infinite number of independent variables. The subject matter of the calculus of variation is searching of unknown functions fi ðx; y; zÞ that give a maximum (minimum) or stationary value of a functional. For example, ððð  ż F f1 ðx; y; zÞ; f2 ðx; y; zÞ; . . . ; fn ðx; y; zÞ; f10 ðx; y; zÞ; . . . ;
V

fn0 ðx; y; zÞ; x; y; z

Ã

dV :

The above-mentioned functions for which the functional is maximum (minimum) or stationary are referred to as extremals of the given functional [8–11]. Let us consider a functional expressing the total potential energy of a deformed elastic body and the loads acting on it. The total potential energy, Å, consists of the strain energy of deformation (the potential of internal forces), U , and the potential energy of external forces (the potential of external forces), , i.e., Å ¼ U þ : ð2:50Þ

By convention, let us assume that the potential energy at the initial, undeformed state, Å0 , is zero. Hence, the total energy Å presents a variation of the energy of internal and external forces in the transition from initial to deformed states. The potential energy of a body is measured by the work done by external and internal forces when this body returns from its final to an initial position (where it was mentioned above, Å0 ¼ 0). Our study is mainly limited to linearly elastic bodies that dissipate no energy and have only one equilibrium configuration. We also require that loads keep the

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