Reconfiguring smart structures using phase space connections

McInnes, C.R. and Waters, T.J. (2008) Reconfiguring smart structures using phase space connections. Smart Materials and Structures, 17 (2). 025030. ISSN 0964-1726

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    Structures are traditionally designed to be stable. However, unstable configurations (such as buckling) can in principle be controlled in smart structures using embedded sensors and actuators. In this paper we explore a new means of reconfiguring smart structures by connecting multiple unstable configurations. Methods from dynamical systems theory are used firstly to identify sets of unstable configurations in a simple smart structure model, and then to connect them through so-called heteroclinic connections in the phase space of the problem. The instability inherent in the structure is then actively utilized to provide an effective new way of transitioning between configurations of the structure in a controlled manner.