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Earthquake Engineering

Equation of motion of MDOF elastic systems (revisited)

1 – Shear frame model & lumped-mass system

Consider, for example, the two-storey structure model represented in Figure 1 (left). The cross
section of the beams is assumed to be much larger than that of the columns, so the beams may be
assumed to be rigid. The structure is to be designed for horizontal ground motion. In the model of
Figure 1 (right), the mass is lumped at the floor levels with mj denoting the mass at the jth floor.
The storey stiffness, damping and displacement are denoted by kj, cj and uj, respectively. The
model is considered to be subjected to a horizontal motion.
m2 u2

m1 u1


Figure 1 – Two-storey shear frame model (left) and lumped mass model (right).

Due to earthquake loading, assume each floor j is subjected to a horizontal force pj(t). The
equation of motion of the two storey building is obtained using Newton’s second law.

• For mass m1:

p1 − k1u1 − c1u&1 + k2 (u2 − u1 ) + c2 (u&2 − u&1 ) = m1u&&1 (1)
• For mass m2:
p 2 − k 2 (u 2 − u1 ) − c2 (u& 2 − u&1 ) = m 2 u&&2 (2)

Writing the two equations in a matrix form, gives:

 m1 0   u&&1  c1 + c2 − c2   u&1  k1 + k 2 − k2   u1   p1 

 0 m  u&&  +  − c +
c2  u&2   − k 2
k 2  u2   p2 
 2  2   2

The above system of equations of motion could be written in a compact form as follows:

&& + Cu& + Ku = p
Mu (4)

Earthquake Engineering

The matrices M, C and K correspond to the mass, damping and stiffness, respectively, and u is
the displacement vector for which differentiation with respect to time gives the velocity and
acceleration vectors in the usual manner. Following the model used for SDOF, when the forcing
term is expressed in term of the ground acceleration, system (4) becomes

&& + Cu& + Ku = − MIu&&g (t )

Mu (5)

where u&&g (t ) is the ground acceleration given as a function of time and finally I is a vector with all
elements equal to 1. First, let us study the free vibration of the undamped system.

The mass mj of floor j is determined in a straightforward way but its stiffness kj is computed
through the use of the flexural stiffness EI of each column and the floor height hj. It is given by

k j = ∑ 12 3
j =1

where n is the number of columns of floor j, E and I are the Young modulus and second moment
of area, respectively, of each column. In expression (6), the flexural rigidity EI is assumed to be
identical for all columns of floor j.

2 – Free vibration of undamped MDOF systems

The displacement is assumed to be harmonic in time, that is

u = Ue iωt (7)

Equation (5) then becomes

(K − ω M )u = 0

This equation has of course the trivial solution u = 0 . For a non trivial solution, the determinant
of the left hand side must be zero. That is

K − ω 2M = 0 (9)

This condition leads to a polynomial in terms of ω 2 . The polynomial has n roots, where n is the
size of matrices and vectors cited above. If K and M are symmetric, the roots are all real, though
they may not be distinct. These roots are the eigenvalues of the matrix of equation (8). Each
eigenvalue has a corresponding eigenvector, being a solution of equation (8).

For a given eigenvalue ω 2 , the eigenvector U i which satisfies equation (8) can be found, but it
has to be arbitrarily scaled, because the matrix is now singular, of rank n − 1 or less, and so U i is

Earthquake Engineering

not uniquely determined. The process of scaling, called normalisation, is usually carried out so
that the largest element of U i is 1. The eigenvectors U i , corresponding to the eigenvalues, are
orthogonal, which is to say

U Ti MU j = 0 and U Ti KU j = 0 for i ≠ j (10)

The classical eigenvalue problem is of the form

(M −1
K − λI )u = 0 (11)

where λ = ω 2 and I is the identity matrix. Unfortunately M −1K is unsymmetrical. The

determination of the eigenvalues of unsymmetrical matrices in fairly complicated. Therefore,
special procedures which retain symmetry are used.

3 – Uncoupled motion of MDOF linear systems

Suppose now, all eigenvalues λi and corresponding eigenvectors U i are calculated for i=1,n
where n is the size of the matrix in equation (8). The displacement u is written as a linear
combination of eigenvectors U i multiplied by scalars ξi .

u = ∑ ξi U i (12)
i =1

Since the mode shapes are not function of time, it follows that

n n
u& = ∑ ξ&i U i and &u& = ∑ξ&&i Ui (13)
i =1 i=1

Replacing expressions (12) and (13) in equation (5) gives

n n n
M∑ ξ&&i U i + C∑ ξ&i U i + K ∑ ξ i U i = −MIu&&g (t ) (14)
i =1 i =1 i =1

On pre-multiplying equation (13) by the jth eigenvector Uj, it becomes

n n n
U Tj M ∑ ξ&&i U i + U Tj C∑ ξ&i U i + U Tj K ∑ ξ i U i = −U Tj MIu&&g (t ) (15)
i =1 i =1 i =1

By the orthogonality properties of (9), this equation reduces to

Earthquake Engineering

ξ&&j U Tj MU j + U Tj C∑ ξ&i U i + ξ j U Tj KU j = −U Tj MIu&&g (t ) (16)
i =1

No further progress can be made in decoupling the equations of motion without more information
about the matrix C. If this matrix also has an orthogonality property, then the equations can be
uncoupled. Rayleigh notes that this will be true if C has the same form as M or K, or indeed is a
linear function of them. He goes on to remark ‘The case occurs frequently, in books at any rate
…’ as we do not usually know much about structural damping thus ‘Rayleigh damping’ is often
adopted. The usual procedure is to write the generalized damping in the jth mode as

c j = U Tj CU j = 2 ςω j U Tj MU j (17)

Combining expressions (16) and (17) leads to

ξ&&j + 2ς ω jξ& j + ω j 2ξ j = − u&&g (t ) (18)
U Tj MU j

This is the uncoupled equation of motion, valid for each mode. The true nature of structural
damping which is not usually viscous and the construction of a suitable damping matrix are
discussed in much more detail in reference [3].

From equation (18), it is shown that each mode ξ j , for j=1…n, is assumed to behave
independently in the earthquake response and it will respond to input acceleration which is αj
times the actual ground acceleration, with

αj = (19)
U Tj MU j

It follows then the maximum displacement, velocity and acceleration read from the design
spectrum are multiplied by this factor to give the maximum values of ξ j , ξ& j and ξ&&j respectively.
Expression (19) is also called the participation factor corresponding to each mode.


[1] A.K. Chopra, Dynamics of Structures – Theory and Applications to Earthquake Engineering,
Prentice Hall, 2001.
[2] N. M. Newmark and E. Rosenblueth, Fundamentals of Earthquake Engineering. Prentice Hall,
[3] R.W. Clough and J. Penzien, Dynamics of Structures, McGraw and Hill, 1983 – Second

Earthquake Engineering


1. For the example of a 2-storey structure model of Figure 1, the mass, stiffness and
damping matrices were determined.
a) Deduce the structure of these matrices for a 3-storey structure model.
b) Deduce the structure of these matrices for n-degrees of freedom.

2. For the 2-storey case of Figure 1, carry out the eigenvalue analysis to determine the
eigenfrequencies of the structure as functions of the mass and stiffness of each storey.
Then consider the masses and stiffnesses of both levels to be identical.

3. For a two-storey structure model, the mass and stiffness matrices are given in the
following form

40000 0   23 × 106 − 4.2 × 106 

M= kg K=
 0 40000 − 4.2 × 10
4.2 × 106 
 N/m

a) Find the natural frequencies and the eigenmodes of the structure.

b) Check the orthogonality of the eigenmodes
c) Determine the participation factor for each mode.

4. Consider a two-storey structure with the mass and stiffness matrices given by

32000 0   20561 × 103 − 3506 × 103 

M= kg K=
 0 20000 − 3506 × 10
3506 × 103 
 N/m

a) Find the natural frequencies and the eigenmodes of the structure.

b) Check the orthogonality of the eigenmodes.
c) Determine the participation factor for each mode.