You are on page 1of 2


Shorter† Department of Mechanical Engineering University of Auckland
Abstract This Technical note reviews traditional methods of vibration modelling based on a modal approach and introduces an alternative technique known as statistical energy analysis (SEA). An overview of the benefits of the technique are outlined and some problems arising from fundamental assumptions discussed. This will introduce areas in which current research aims to combine some of the advantages of the two approaches.

Modelling the dynamic behaviour of complex structures such as cars, ships, buildings and aircraft is an important part of improving the noise and vibration performance of such structures. The traditional approach to vibration modelling was first introduced by Rayleigh [1] in 1877 and showed how the mode shapes and natural frequencies of a structure could be calculated for simple geometries. With the introduction of computers structures of arbitrary geometry could be analysed by the Finite Element method. In this technique the mass and stiffness of a structure is obtained numerically by discretising the structure into elements and calculating the contribution made by each individual element. The finite element method is commonly used when calculating the lower modes of a structure for example the flexing of a ships hull or the low frequency vibration of a car body [2]. The first step in the analysis of the structure is termed a ‘normal mode’ analysis and calculates the mode shapes and natural frequencies of the structure from an eigenvalue problem. The response of the structure to a forced vibration can then be calculated using a technique known as modal superposition (or ‘time history’ analysis) [3]. It is also possible to calculate the forced response of a structure without a normal mode analysis by a technique known as ‘direct integration’. At higher frequencies there are various problems with the finite element approach. Higher frequencies require more computation and finer discretisation of the geometry because of the need to consider more modes in the analysis. These higher modes are also more sensitive to variations in structural detail which means the natural frequencies of a particular realisation of the structure may vary considerably from those calculated. This uncertainty makes the use of a deterministic approach questionable and highlights the need for a method which adopts a statistical approach from the start. These problems led to the development of a technique known as Statistical Energy Analysis (SEA) in the 1960’s [4]. In SEA a structure is split into various

subsystems and equations describing the flow of vibrational energy between subsystems are generated. For example the aeroplane illustrated in figure 1 might be split up into its engines, wings, fuselage and tailplane. Power may be injected into the system by the engines and distributed throughout the plane by the coupling between subsystems (figure 2). The overall response of each subsystem is then determined by the strength of coupling and the amount of damping in each subsystem.

Figure 1 : Illustration of Lockheed L 1011 Pdiss Wing Pdiss Fuselage Pdiss Wing

Pdiss Engine Tailplane Engine Pin




Figure 2 : Possible choice of subsystems The vibration problem can be likened to an equivalent thermal (or electrical) analogy in which vibrational energy is related to temperature (or voltage). This vibrational energy then flows from vibrationally ‘hot’ parts of a structure to ‘colder’ parts. As a comparison in a thermal analysis of an object it is normally assumed

H. 247-266 [3] Cook.i = ∆ p .temperature. There may be substantial benefits obtained by combining the generality of finite elements with the practical benefits of SEA. Structural-acoustic finite element analysis of the automobile passenger compartment : a review of current practice.i . It was noticed that the coupling power flow under broadband excitation was proportional to the difference in the energies of the two oscillators. Journal of Sound and Vibration 154(2). Averaging this identity over frequency or the properties of an ensemble gives : Pin . One of the early developments in the theory of SEA was obtained by considering the power flow between two linearly coupled oscillators. References [1] Rayleigh. . Journal of Sound and Vibration 80(2). The equations relating the subsystem energies are obtained by considering a power balance averaged over time for each subsystem [5]:- experimentally) for the coupling between various standard connections (ie beams. 1975. Wiley.that the motion of individual molecules within that object is not required but rather the spatial and time averaged energy ie.i (1) Where P . Applying this result to a complex system led to an approximation central to traditional SEA for the coupling power between subsystems i and j.i = ∆ p . The aim of the authors research is to look at ways of combining the techniques to provide a general engineering tool. R. Concepts and Applications of Finite Element Analysis. MIT Press [5] Mace. Statistical Energy Analysis of Dynamical Systems. This ensemble might be for example the population of fridges that result from production tolerances in a production process. J. J. By adopting this ‘vibrational energy’ approach the analysis can give results which predict a typical response for an ensemble of similar structures. W. Expressions for coupling loss factors and modal densities can be found (both analytically and The author wishes to acknowledge the support of Industrial Research Ltd. R. 289-319 Pin . 1992. One problem with SEA is that the approximation shown in (5) is only exact for certain coupled subsystems and the extent of the approximation for general systems is unknown. ISBN 0-471-03050-3 [4] Lyon.i + Pcoup . S.i + Pcoup . plates etc. ω is the centre of a frequency band of interest and ni .i is the mean half power bandwidth of subsystem i. 1877. 1982.i Ei (3) Where ∆ p . The number of equations that need to be solved for the subsystem response is small (one per subsystem) making the technique very computationally efficient. Research in this area has focused on the use of finite elements to calculate coupling loss factors for use in subsequent SEA analysis although there are other ways of combining the two techniques. P .i The power lost approximated by : because of (2) damping can be Pdiss . SEA tends to work best for higher modes where there are many natural frequencies close together (high modal overlap). Dover Publications [2] Nefske. Taking the average over time gives : Pdiss . D.) and used to obtain subsystem energies.i Ei (4) From these equations it can be seen that the energy in each subsystem can be determined once the coupling powers are known (for a given set of input powers). This is the opposite of Finite Elements which work best for lower modes (up to the tenth mode for example). Systems which have weakly coupled subsystems with low damping tend to produce results which deviate least from ensemble mean predictions.i are the input. and a University of Auckland Doctoral scholarship for funding of this research.i = Pdiss .i and Pcoup . †  n  Pij = ωηij  Ei − i E j  (5) nj   where the constant of proportionality ηij is termed the coupling loss factor. Power flow between two continuous one-dimensional subsystems : a wave solution.i = Pdiss . n j are the asymptotic modal densities of the subsystems. 1981. B. R. dissipated in diss and coupling powers for subsystem i. D. The theory of sound.