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Introduction to Continuum Mechanics

c Romesh C. Batra, 1998, 2000




Chapter 1


1. What is Mechanics?


2. Continuum Mechanics


3. An example of an ad-hoc approach



Chapter 2

Mathematical Preliminaries

1. Summation convention, Dummy Indices


2. Free Indices


3. Kronecker Delta


4. Index Notation


5. Permutation Symbol


6. Manipulation with the Indicial Notation


7. Translation and Rotation of Coordinate Axes



8. Tensors


Chapter 3



Description of Motion of a Continuum



Referential and Spatial Descriptions



Displacement Vector



Restrictions on Continuous Deformation of a Deformable Body



Material Derivative



Finding Acceleration of a Particle from a given Velocity Field



Deformation Gradient



Strain Tensors



Principal Strains



Deformation of Areas and Volumes



Mass Density. Equation of Continuity



Rate of Deformation



Polar Decomposition



Infinitesimal Deformations



Chapter 4

The Stress Tensor

1. Kinetics of a Continuous Media


2. Boundary Conditions for the Stress Tensor


3. Nominal Stress Tensor


4. Transformation of Stress Tensor under Rotation of Axes


5. Principal Stresses. Maximum Shear Stress


Chaper 5

The Linear Elastic Material

1. Introduction


2. Linear Elastic Solid. Hookean Material


3. Equations of the Infinitesimal Theory of Elasticity


4. Principle of Superposition


5. A Uniqueness Theorem


6. Compatibility Equations Expressed in terms of the Stress Components for an Isotropic, Homogeneous, Linear, Elastic Solid


7. Some Examples.



Vibration of an Infinite Plate


Torsion of a Circular Shaft



Torsion of Non-Circular Cylinders


Chaper 6

The Linear Elastic Material

1. Constitutive Relation


2. Formulation of an Initial-Boundary-Varlue Problem


3. Examples





The major objective of our study of Mechanics is the formulation and solution of initial-boundary- value problems that model as realistically as possible a physical phenomenon. There are two equally attractive approaches to Mechanics. One is the ad-hoc approach, which takes up specific problems, and devises problem-dependent methods of solution, introducing simplifying assump- tions as needed. (This approach is used in Strength of Materials where problems of bending, torsion, pressure vessel are individually set up under varying assumptions and then solved.) The other is the general approach, which explores the general features of a concept or a theory and considers specific applications at a later stage. By and large, the latter is the quicker way to learn about an entire field, but the former is more concrete and sometimes more easily understood. We will study the general approach in this course.

1.1 What is Mechanics?

Mechanics is the study of the motion of matter and the forces required to cause its motion. Mechan- ics is based on the concepts of time, space, force, energy, and matter. A knowledge of mechanics is needed for the study of all branches of physics, chemistry, biology and engineering. The consideration of all aspects of mechanics would be too large a task for us. Instead, in this course, we shall study only the classical mechanics of non-polar continua. (A nonpolar continuum is one whose material particles have only three translational degrees of freedom.) We shall concern ourselves with the basic principles common to fluids and solids.

1.2 Continuum Mechanics

Matter is formed of molecules which in turn consist of atoms and subatomic particles. Thus matter is not continuous. However, there are many aspects of everyday experience regarding the behavior of materials, such as the amount of lengthening of a steel bar under the action of given forces, the rate of discharge of water in a pipe under a given pressure difference or the drag force ex- perienced by a body moving in air etc., which can be described and predicted with theories that


pay no attention to the molecular structure of materials. The theory which describes relationships between gross phenomena, neglecting the structure of materials on a smaller scale, is known as the continuum theory. The continuum theory regards matter as indefinitely divisible. Thus, within the theory, one accepts the idea of an infinitesimal volume of material referred to as a particle in the continuum, and in every neighborhood of a particle there are always infinitely many particles present. Whether the continuum theory is justified or not depends upon the given situation. For example, the molecular dimension of water is about ; hence, if we are concerned about the liquid water in a problem in which we never have to consider dimensions less than say cm, we are safe to treat water as a continuum. The mean free path of the molecules of air on the surface of the earth at room temperature is about cm; hence, if we consider the flow of air about an airplane, we may treat air as a continuum. The diameter of a red blood cell in our body is about cm; hence, we can treat our blood as a continuum if we consider the flow in arteries of diameter say 0.5 mm. Thus the concept of a material continuum as a mathematical idealization of the real world is applicable to problems in which the fine structure of the matter can be ignored. When the consideration of fine structure is important, we should use principles of particle physics, statistical mechanics, or a theory of micropolar continuum.

1.3 An example of an ad-hoc approach.

Consider the problem of the bending of a beam usually studied in the first course on Mechanics of Deforms. This is generally based on the following assumptions:

i) The beam is initially straight.

ii) The cross-section is uniform.

iii) The beam is made of a homogeneous and isotropic material which obeys Hooke’s law.

iv) Plane sections remain plane.

v) The beam is subjected to a pure bending moment applied at the ends.


Under these assumptions, one can derive the formula


in which is the longitudinal bending stress, the distance from the neutral axis which passes through the centroid of the cross-section and I the moment of inertia of the cross-section about the neutral axis. The derivation of (1.3.1) makes no reference to other components of stress acting at a point. Of course, if the beam were initially curved or were one interested in finding the transverse shear stress at a point, one would start essentially from scratch.

1.4 Continuum Mechanics

In Continuum Mechanics, we first establish principles which are applicable to all media, both fluids and solids, under all kinds of loading conditions. We then study constitutive equations which define classes of idealized materials. Finally specific problems are analyzed, and results are compared with experimental observations.

2 Mathematical Preliminaries

2.1 Summation Convention, Dummy Indices

Consider the sum

We can write it in a compact form as



It is obvious that the index or in eqn. (2.1.2) is dummy in the sense that the sum is indepen- dent of the letter used. This is analogous to the dummy variable in an integral of a function over a finite interval.


We can further simplify the writing of eqn. (2.1.2) by adopting the following convention, some- times known as Einstein’s summation convention. Whenever an index is repeated once in the same term, it implies summation over the specified range of the index. Using the summation convention, eqn. (2.1.2) shortens to . Note that expressions such as are not defined within this convention. That is, an index should never be repeated more than once in the same term for the summation convention to be used. Therefore, an expression of the form

must retain its summation sign. In the following, unless otherwise specified, we shall always take to be 3 so that, for example,

The summation convention can obviously be used to express a double sum, a triple sum, etc. For example, we can write

simply as . This expression equals the sum of nine terms:

Similarly, the triple sum

will simply be written as , and it

represents the sum of 27 terms. We emphasize again that expressions such as or are not defined in the summation convention.


Exercise: Given

Evaluate (a) , (b) , and (c) .

2.2 Free Indices

Consider the following system of three equations:

These can be shortened to



An index which appears only once in each term of an equation such as the index in eqn. (2.2.2) is called a “free index”. A free index takes on the integral number 1,2, or 3 one at a time. Thus eqn. (2.2.2) is a short way of writing three equations each having the sum of three terms on its right-hand side. Note that the free index appearing in every term of an equation must be the same. Thus

is a meaningless equation. However, the following equations are meaningful.

If there are two free indices appearing in an equation such as


then it is a short way of writing 9 equations. For example, eqn. (2.2.3) represents 9 equations; each


one has the sum of 3 terms on the right-hand side. In fact

Again, equations such as

are meaningless.

2.3 Kronecker Delta.

The Kronecker Delta, denoted by , is defined as

That is,

In other words, the matrix

is the identity matrix

We note the following relations




Or, in general

Similarly, one can show that

In particular,

2.4 Index Notation

Usually, rectangular Cartesian coordinates of a point are denoted by and the unit vectors along and -axes by , and respectively. In this coordinate system, the components of a vector along , and axes are denoted by , and . The vector has the representation

This notation does not lend itself to any abbreviation. Therefore, instead of denoting the coordinate axes by we will denote them by . Also we will denote unit vectors

them by . Also we will denote unit vectors along and axes by , and

along and axes by , and respectively. Naturally then components of a vector along and axes will be indicated by , and respectively. Hence we can write




The dot product can simply be written as



Since are

mutually orthogonal unit vectors, therefore,



These equations can be summarized as




Exercise. Using the index notation, write expressions for

(1) the magnitude of a vector ,

(2) being the angle between vectors and .

As another illustration of the use of the index notation, consider a line element with components

. The square of the length, , of the line element is given by

Finally, we note that the differential of a function can be written as

2.5 Permutation Symbol

The permutation symbol, denoted by , is defined by

if form


an even

an odd

not a

permutation of


That is,


We note that

If form a right-handed triad, then

which can be written as

Now, if

, then



Exercise. Using the index notation write an expression for ; being the angle between vectors and . Exercise. Show that

The following useful identity, which can be verified by long-hand calculations should be mem- orized.



Now by using this identity let us prove the vector identity

Proof: Let . Then , and

Exercise. Show that





If , then ,

, and



, then


We now write in the index notation.


Example. Show that .


Manipulations with the Indicial Notations









then, in order to substitute for ’s from (2.6.2) into (2.6.1) we first change the dummy index from to some other letter, say and then the free index in (2.6.2) from to , so that

Now (2.6.1) and (2.6.3) give



Note that (2.6.4) represents three equations each having the sum of nine terms on its right-hand side.










It is important to note that . In fact the right-hand side of this expression is not even defined in the summation convention and further it is obvious that




then, using the Kronecker delta, we can write

so that (2.6.8) becomes




(d) Contraction The operation of identifying two indices and so summing on them is known as contraction. For

example, is the contraction of ,

and is a contraction of ,






Exercise. Given that ,

, show that

2.7 Translation and Rotation of Coordinate Axes

Consider two sets of rectangular Cartesian frames of reference and in a plane.

If the frame of reference

is obtained from by a shift of the origin without a

change in orientation, then, the transformation is a translation.

in orientation, then, the transformation is a translation . If a point has coordinates and with

If a point has coordinates and

with respect to and respec-

tively and are the coordinates of with respect to , then

or briefly


If the origin remains fixed, and the new axes

are obtained by rotating and

through an angle in the counter-clockwise direction, then

fixed, and the new axes are obtained by rotating and through an angle in the counter-clockwise


the transformation of axes is a rotation. Let the point have coordinates and

relative to and

respectively. Then,

We can write

in terms of as


Using the index notation, the set of eqns. (2.7.2) can be written as


where are elements of the matrix ;

Before we generalize (2.7.1) and (2.7.2) to three dimensions we give below an alternate method

of arriving at (2.7.2). Let along and -axes. Then

denote unit vectors along and -axes and unit vectors




This latter approach can more easily be adopted to the 3-dimensional case. If the primed axes

are obtained from the unprimed axes just by a translation, then the coordinates

of a point with respect to the two sets of axes are related by (2.7.1) wherein the index ranges from

to . Now let us assume that the primed axes are obtained from the unprimed axes by a rotation only. Let us denote unit vectors along by , and respectively and those along


and respectively. If

cosine of the angle between


then and are the direction cosines of with respect to the unprimed axes. We can write



Note that the matrix is . Since






Equations (2.7.6) are equivalent to the following six equations.


The first three equations are equivalent to the statement that

three equations are equivalent to the statement that we can write ’s in terms of ’s. Since

and are unit vectors; the last

are mutually orthogonal. Of course,


cosine of the angle between and



From the point of view of the solution of a set of simultaneous linear equations, the matrix in (2.7.8) must be identified as the inverse of the matrix :


Here is the transpose of the matrix . A matrix , which satisfies eqn. (2.7.9) is called an orthogonal matrix. That is, the transpose of an orthogonal matrix equals its inverse. A transfor- mation is said to be orthogonal if the associated matrix is orthogonal. The matrix in (2.7.4) defining a rotation of coordinate axes is orthogonal.


For an orthogonal matrix we have


and thus



An orthogonal matrix whose determinant equals is called proper orthogonal and the one whose determinant equals is called improper orthogonal. A proper orthogonal matrix transforms a

right-handed triad of axes into a right-handed set of axes whereas an improper orthogonal matrix transforms a right-handed set of axes into a left-handed set of axes or vice-versa.

and . By setting the volume

Exercise: Consider a cube formed by the orthonormal vectors

of this cube equal to 1, show that . Consider a vector emanating from the origin and ending at a point . With respect to the primed and unprimed axes,



Example: The components of a vector with respect to unprimed axes are . Con- sider a set of primed coordinate axes obtained by rotating the unprimed axes through an angle of about the -axis (see Fig. ). What are the components, , of this vector with respect to the primed set of axes?




can be written as


, of this vector with respect to the primed set of axes? Solution: Therefore Now can


Summarizing our discussion of the transformation of coordinate axes, we note that a general transformation from unprimed to primed axes combines both a translation and a rotation of the axes. This can be written as


where is an orthogonal matrix and is a constant. Under this transformation, the components of a vector in the two sets of axes are related as



2.8.1 A Linear Transformation


Let be a transformation from a vector space into the same vector space. That is, for any vector , is also a vector of the same dimensions as . Then is linear if and only if

for every real and


[NOTE: is a linear function of if and only if where is a real number. For example is not a linear function of even though it is often referred to as such.] A linear transformation from a vector space into another vector space is also called a second-order tensor.

2.8.2 Tensor Product Between Two Vectors

The tensor product (or the dyadic product) between two vectors and is defined as

for every vector


Thus transforms a vector into a vector parallel to . Since it transforms a vector into a vector and obeys (, it is a linear transformation. Note that




Components of a Second-Order Tensor


vectors). For any vector ,

be a set of orthonormal basis vectors (i.e.

Let . Then

are mutually orthogonal unit




Taking the inner product of both sides of this eqn. with , we obtain


is called the component of with respect to the basis

. For computation purposes, eqn. ( is written as





Analogous to the representation ( for vector , we have the following representation for second-order tensor .


Because of (, need not equal . In order to see that ( is equivalent to (,


we evaluate .


which is equivalent to or ( It is clear from ( that the components of depend upon the choice of basis . Let


where is an orthogonal matrix (i.e. ). Then


and in matrix notation,

and since is orthogonal,