Multiple scales analyses of the dynamics of weakly nonlinear mechanical systems

MP Cartmell, SW Ziegler, R Khanin, DIM Forehand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


This review article starts by addressing the mathematical principles of the perturbation method of multiple scales in the context of mechanical systems which are defined by weakly nonlinear ordinary differential equations. At this stage the paper investigates some different forms of typical nonlinearities which are frequently encountered in machine and structural dynamics. This leads to conclusions relating to the relevance and scope of this popular and versatile method, its strengths, its adaptability and potential for different variant forms, and also its weaknesses. Key examples from the literature are used to develop and consolidate these themes. In addition to this the paper examines the role of term-ordering, the integration of the so-called small (ie, perturbation) parameter within system constants, nondimensionalization and time-scaling, series truncation, inclusion and exclusion of higher order nonlinearities, and typical problems in the handling of secular terms. This general discussion is then applied to models of the dynamics of space tethers given that these systems are nonlinear and necessarily highly susceptible to modelling accuracy, thus offering a rigorous and testing applications case-study area for the multiple scales method. The paper concludes with comments on the use of variants of the multiple scales method, and also on the constraints that the method can bring to expectations of modelling accuracy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-491
Number of pages37
JournalApplied Mechanics Reviews
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • structural dynamics
  • system constants
  • nondimensionalization
  • modelling accuracy

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