Observations on Low-Speed Aeroelasticity

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by Robert H. Scanlan, (Hon.M.ASCE),

Abstract: A brief history of developments in the field of low-speed aeroelasticity is provided in the context of application to long-span bridge structures. The paper begins with summary of some of the significant developments in aeroelasticity for low-speed aeronautical applications in the early 20th century. The role of the pivotal Tacoma Narrows failure and subsequent investigation is introduced. The development of formal experimental and analytical tools for the prediction of long-span bridge response to wind is presented, and their roots in—but differences from—classical low-speed aeroelasticity are presented and discussed (e.g., aerodynamic admittance). The important issue of Reynolds number scaling is discussed and posed as a problem that requires resolution in future research. Details of analytical and experimental techniques are not provided herein; readers are referred to the references for developments in these areas. The intent of the paper is to emphasize the parallels between these two strongly related fields, and in so doing, highlight the role of classical aeronautical engineering in the development of state-of-the-art bridge wind engineering.

Subject Headings: Aeroelasticity | Wind engineering | Span bridges | Forensic engineering | History | Failure analysis | Tacoma | Washington | United States | North America


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