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Jun 09, 2016

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Minimum Potential Energy

© All Rights Reserved

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Minimum Potential Energy

© All Rights Reserved

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The principle of minimum potential energy follows directly from the principle of

virtual work (for elastic materials).

8.6.1

Consider again the example given in the last section; in particular re-write Eqn. 8.5.15 as

E A

E A

Pu B 1 1 2 2 u B2 0

2 L2

2 L1

(8.6.1)

The quantity inside the curly brackets is defined to be the total potential energy of the

system, , and the equation states that the variation of is zero that this quantity does

not vary when a virtual displacement is imposed:

(8.6.2)

The total potential energy as a function of displacement u is sketched in Fig. 8.6.1. With

reference to the figure, Eqn. 8.6.2 can be interpreted as follows: the total potential energy

attains a stationary value (maximum or minimum) at the actual displacement ( u1 ); for

example, 0 for an incorrect displacement u 2 . Thus the solution for displacement

can be obtained by finding a stationary value of the total potential energy. Indeed, it can

be seen that the quantity inside the curly brackets in Fig. 8.6.1 attains a minimum for the

solution already derived, Eqn. 8.5.17.

(u )

u 2

u1

u1

u2

To generalise, define the potential energy of the applied loads to be V Wext so that

U V

(8.6.3)

The external loads must be conservative, precluding for example any sliding frictional

loading. Taking the total potential energy to be a function of displacement u, one has

d (u )

u 0

du

268

(8.6.4)

Kelly

Section 8.6

Thus of all possible displacements u satisfying the loading and boundary conditions, the

actual displacement is that which gives rise to a stationary point d / du 0 and the

problem reduces to finding a stationary value of the total potential energy U V .

Stability

To be precise, Eqn. 8.6.2 only demands that the total potential energy has a stationary

point, and in that sense it is called the principle of stationary potential energy. One can

have a number of stationary points as sketched in Fig. 8.6.2. The true displacement is one

of the stationary values u1 , u 2 , u 3 .

u1

u2

u3

Consider the system with displacement u 2 . If an external force acts to give the particles

of the system some small initial velocity and hence kinetic energy, one has 0 K .

The particles will now move and so the displacement u 2 changes. Since is a

minimum there it must increase and so the kinetic energy must decrease, and so the

particles remain close to the equilibrium position. For this reason u 2 is defined as a

stable equilibrium point of the system. If on the other hand the particles of the body were

given small initial velocities from an initial displacement u1 or u 3 , the kinetic energy

would increase dramatically; these points are called unstable equilibrium points. Only

the state of stable equilibrium is of interest here and the principle of stationary potential

energy in this case becomes the principle of minimum potential energy.

8.6.2

solutions to problems which are otherwise difficult or, more usually, impossible to solve

exactly. It forms one basis of the Finite Element Method (FEM), a general technique

for solving systems of equations which arise in complex solid mechanics problems (and

which is discussed in Book III).

Example

A A0 (1 x / L) , fixed at one end and subjected to a force F at the other. The true

269

Kelly

Section 8.6

might be approximated using the principle, one writes

2

1

du

U V EA dx F u x L

2 0 dx

L

(8.6.5)

2

F

EA0 L

1

FL

ln 2 F 2 L

(

1

x

/

L

)

dx

F

ln

2

EA 1 x / L

2 0

EA0

2 EA0

0

(8.6.6)

According to the principle, any other displacement solution (which satisfies the

displacement boundary condition u (0) 0 ) will lead to a greater potential energy .

Suppose now that the solution was unknown. In that case an estimate of the solution can

be made in terms of some unknown parameter(s), substituted into Eqn. 8.6.5, and then

minimised to find the parameters. This procedure is known as the Rayleigh Ritz

method. For example, let the guess, or trial function, be the linear function u x .

The boundary condition leads to 0 . Substituting u x into Eqn. 8.6.5 leads to

L

1

3

EA0 2 (1 x / L)dx F L EA0 L 2 F L

2

4

0

(8.6.7)

d 3

2F

EA0 L FL 0

d 2

3EA0

2 Fx

3EA0

(8.6.8)

The exact and approximate Ritz solution are plotted in Fig. 8.6.3.

0.7

0.6

FL

EA0

exact

0.5

0.4

approximate

0.3

0.2

0.1

0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

x/L

Figure 8.6.3: exact and (Ritz) approximate solution for axial problem

270

Kelly

Section 8.6

The total potential energy due to this approximate solution 2 Fx / 3EA0 is, from Eqn.

8.6.5,

1 F 2L

3 EA0

(8.6.9)

which is indeed greater than the minimum value Eqn. 8.6.6 ( 0.347 F 2 L / EA0 ).

The accuracy of the solution 8.6.9 can be improved by using as the trial function a

quadratic instead of a linear one, say u x x 2 . Again the boundary condition

leads to 0 . Then u x x 2 and there are now two unknowns to determine. Since

is a function of two variables,

(8.6.10)

and the two unknowns can be obtained from the two conditions

0,

(8.6.11)

Example

A beam of length L and constant Youngs modulus E and moment of inertia I is supported

at its ends and subjected to a uniform distributed force per length f. Let the beam undergo

deflection v(x) . The potential energy of the applied loads is

L

V fv( x)dx

(8.6.12)

EI

L

d 2v

0 dx 2 dx f 0 vdx

L

(8.6.13)

v x( x L) . Substituting into 8.6.13 leads to

2 2 EIL fL3 / 6

(8.6.14)

Source: http://homepages.engineering.auckland.ac.nz/~pkel015/SolidMechanicsBooks/Part_I/

BookSM_Part_I/08_Energy/08_Energy_06_Minimum_Potential_Energy.pdf

271

Kelly

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