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Mechanical vibrations: beats and resonance

Both mechanical vibrations and electric circuits can be accurately modeled by linear differential equations
with constant coefficients. Here we will consider only the case of mechanical vibrations, but exactly the
same principles apply to electric circuits.
I have posted notes on the algebra and trig underlying some of the analysis.
If u measures the displacement of a mass m from equilibrium, then
mu00 + u0 + ku = F.

(1)

where and k are nonnegative constants, and F = F (t) is the external force. The parameter k appears
courtesy of Hookes Law, and is called the spring constant, even when there is no actual spring.
The damping coefficient might be due to friction, internal or external. The term u0 is the nonconservative contribution: it accounts for the energy lost to heat. Often it is the least accurate approximation to the contributing forces, but is accurate enough for many applications to give robust qualitative
Our strategy to understand the behavior of such systems is to begin with the assumption that there
is no damping ( = 0) and no forcing (F = 0). We then add sinusoidal forcing, where we first encounter
the phenomena of beats and resonance. We then consider the effect of damping on this situation.

Undamped free vibrations

A free or unforced vibration is one where F = 0. An undamped vibration is one where = 0. We say
that the system is perfectly elastic. It does not dissipate energy due to frictional or other nonconservative
forces.
The general solution to the equation u00 + ku = 0 is
p
u = A cos(0 t) + B sin(0 t), where 0 = k/m,
(2)

and A and B are arbitrary constants. [Check this!] We call 0 the natural harmonic of the system.
This homogeneous solution can be rewritten in the form
p
u = R cos(0 t ), where R = A2 + B 2 , R cos() = A.
(3)
The constant R is the amplitude of the wave. The phase shift is /0 . [Check this!]

Undamped vibrations with periodic forcing

Specificaly, we look at perhaps the simplest periodic forcing, namely F (t) = cos(t). For our first
look at this situation we continue with the assumption that = 0. For simplicity we also take as
initial conditions u(0) = u0 (0) = 0. Other initial conditions will merely effect the contribution from the
homogeneous solution, and hence not affect the conclusions.
If 6= 0 then

F0 /m 
cos(t) cos(0 t)
2
2
0
F0 /m
sin( 12 |0 | t) sin( 21 |0 + | t).
= 1 2
2|
|

0
2

u=

(4)
(5)

[Check this!] The first sine factor is a lower frequencey envelope which modulates the higher-frequency
second sine factor. This is the phenomonon of beats. As 0 the solution changes to
u=

F0 /m
t sin(0 t).
20

[Check this!] Now the amplitude grows without bound. Thus is the phenomenom called resonance.

(6)

Damped free vibrations

This is the case where F = 0 but 6= 0. We consider three cases, corresponding to increasing .
1. The underdamped case: if 2 < 4km then

t) cos(t ), where
u = R exp(
2m
1 p
=
4km 2
2mr
2
= 0 1
.
4km
[Check this!] The parameter is called the quasifrequency. When is very small then


2
.
0 1
4km

(7)
(8)
(9)

(10)

[Check this!]
2. The critically damped case: if 2 = 4km then
u = exp(

t)(At + B).
2m

(11)

[Check this!]
3. The overerdamped case: if 2 > 4km then
u = c1 exp(r1 t) + c2 exp(r2 t), where r1 , r2 =

1 p 2

4km.
2m 2m

(12)

[Check this!]
In all of these cases we have that
lim u = 0.

t+

(13)

Damped vibrations with periodic forcing

Now we consider the same forcing as above, but add the more realistic assumption that 6= 0. In this
case
u = U + uh , where uh is given by either (7), (11), or (12),
F0
cos(t ),
and U =

where =

m2 (02 2 )2 + 2 2 ,

m 2
and cos =
( 2 ).
0

(14)
(15)
(16)
(17)

[Check this!] The homogeneous solution uh is called the transient solution in this situation, while U is
We want to determine R as a function of . We observe the following facts:
R F0 /k as 0
R 0 as

(18)
(19)

R is maximimzed where is minimized



2
2
d
2
= 0 when 2 = 02
=

.
0
d
2m2
2km
F0
q
Hence max R =
.
2
0 1 4km

(20)

[Check this!]
2

(21)
(22)

The application of linear differential equations to mechanical and electrical vibrations is covered in
sections 3.8 and 3.9 of the text. Good practice problems are 17, 911, pages 203205; and 115, pages
214216.

1. What is an undamped free vibration?
2. What is an underdamped free vibration?
3. What is a critically free vibration?
4. What is a overdamped free vibration?
5. What is the natural harmonic?
6. What is the quasifrequency?
7. Under what situation do you encounter beats?
8. Under what situation do you encounter resonance?
9. What is the transient solution? Why is it called that?
10. What is the steady state solution? Why is it called that?

Extra credit assignment 1: due Thursday, 3 August

1. Verify all of the facts numbered (2)(22).
2. Pcik various realistic values for the parameters m, , and k, then draw graphs of the solutions (3),
(5), (6), (7), (11), (12), and (15). Feel free to use Maple!