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Strain Energy. Variational Theorems.

Concept of Minimum Potential Energy.

The Ritz Method.
Strain Energy

energy capacity to do work
potential energy stored energy as a result of work previously done e.g. wind-up toys,
spinning tops
strain energy is a form of potential energy that is stored in materials that have
undergone/ been subjected to strain
when the strained material returns to its original dimensions, it does work

strain energy energy stored within a material when work has been done on the material

assumption: material remains within elastic region so that all the energy is recovered i.e.
no permanent deformations

with reference to the diagram above: work done by (a gradually applied load) in
straining material = area under the load-extension curve
the area above the curve is known as the complementary energy

Strain Energy due to Normal (direct) Stress

consider the elemental length of bar, , with coss-sectional area

Youngs modulus,

From which we get,

Substituting this into


For a bar of length , total strain energy is

If the bar has constant c/s area

Normal stress,


Strain Energy due to Shear

Putting the above expressions together gives shear strain energy,

Strain energy
Shear modulus
From which we get

Total energy from shear


Strain Energy due to Bending

Strain energy becomes

Total strain energy from bending

For constant bending moment

Bending theory equation:
Strain energy =work done=
Strain Energy due to Torsion

From simple torsion theory

Total strain energy from torsion

Since T is constant in most practical applications

Also from simple torsion theory

So we have

Now the polar moment of inertia for a shaft

Also the volume for a bar is

Substituting these into the above expression for strain energy gives

Torsion theory
Angle of twist is in radians
Strain energy = work done =


Variational Theorems

As stated before there are two ways of approaching FE Method
One is fairly straight-forward and easy to understand

Physical approach (a.k.a. model based simulation)
start with a physical system/ structure
break it down into elements
reconstruct by assembly process using nodes
find the solution (deformations, etc.)

FEM- take a complex
problem that is difficult to solve
break it down into
a simple one that can be solved
Physical model or
Model based simulation
Break down into
Elements and nodes
Solve for displacements
at nodes and interpolate
across element to get strains and

Governing DE which often
Cannot be solved directly
solution* BUT enforcing BCs and
substituting back into DE does not yield
sufficient # of linearly independent
equations to solve for unknown
to FEM
e.g. Ritz
Generate sufficient linearly
independent equations to solve
for coefficients
What do you do when you have something like this? how do you break up a ODE/PDE
so you can solve it?


Here we have a Differential Equation (DE) or governing equation
This equation must be manipulated in order to generate a discrete FE model
Formulation of a variational or weak form of the governing equation yield FEM
equations which can then be solved
This is the Mathematical approach
Because DEs are difficult to solve so we seek approximate solutions using various
methods that must minimise error in solution
In fact FEM assumes that the solution of the DE is a piecewise continuous function
Two formulations (i.e. formulation of FE equations) which are widely used are the
Galerkin Method and the Ritz Method
We will consider the Ritz Method which is derived using the Principle of Minimum
Potential Energy
Formulation- process by which governing equation is broken down into a system of
equations (represented in matrix form) which can then be solved by computers
Equations are solved element by element at the nodes

Quick Review of Differential Equations

Linear Differential Equations have the general form:



this DE will have two boundary conditions (BCs)

two types of BCs (i) Neumann/ Natural Boundary Conditions (NBCs) &
(ii) Dirichlet/ Essential Boundary Conditions (EBCs)
NBCs consist of higher order derivatives and are not sufficient to solve the DE
EBCs are sufficient to solve the DE completely

Thus, the DE above can be solved completely if one of the two conditions is met:
(a) EBC prescribed at both ends i.e.

, where *is the prescribed value

(b) EBC prescribed at one end and NBC at the same/other end i.e.



will have four BCs of which two must be EBCs
Can be solved completely if:

at both ends or

at one end and

at the other
In this case the NBCs are


Potential Energy

A system which is constrained at certain portions will deform when subjected to loading
These deformations are unknowns and are precisely what we seek in FEM i.e.
deformations are linked to strains, and strains are linked to stresses
After loading the structure attains a new state and the Potential Energy (PE) of the system
(elastic) is given by

where is the PE, is the strain energy and is the work done on the body by external
forces (-ve sign implies energy lost by external forces)

There are many possible deformed/deflected shapes of the loaded structure so the
question becomes: How do we know which is the correct deflected shape?

Total potential energy attains stationary value (maximum or minimum) at the actual

The Principle of Minimum Potential Energy

Every applied load will have a unique deformed shape at equilibrium and this unique
shape occurs when the PE is an extreme value (either maximum or minimum)
When the PE is a minimum the equilibrium state is said to be stable

Among all the displacement states of a conservative system that satisfy compatibility and
boundary restraints, those that also satisfy equilibrium make the potential energy stationary.
A system is in a state of equilibrium only when its potential energy is minimal.
For conservative structural systems, of all the kinematically* admissible deformations, those
corresponding to the equilibrium state extremise (i.e. maximise or minimise) the total
potential energy. If the extremum is a minimum, the equilibrium state is stable. (*satisfy
geometric boundary conditions)

Assumptions: (i) strains and displacements are small
(ii) no loss of energy in static loading process i.e.

(ii) system is conservative

Principle of Minimum Potential Energy is the basis for displacement FEM


Use the Principle of Minimum Potential Energy to solve for the equilibrium values of

(DOFs) when forces

are applied.

The deflection (elongation or contraction) of the springs can be written as follows

Now so


For equilibrium, must be an extremum with respect to all DOF i.e.

These can be written in matrix form as


] {

} {


i.e , where K is the stiffness matrix

From this we can get the

s :

This set of simultaneous equations is now amenable to solution by computers

NB For elasticity problems
[]{} {}

Property [] Behaviour {} Action {}
Elastic Stiffness Displacement Force
Thermal Conductivity Temperature Heat source
Fluid Viscosity Velocity Body force

Variational Methods- A General Discussion

A variational method is one in which an approximate solution to a DE,

, is sought and coefficients are determined using a weighted integral


Variational methods:

property action
1. provide means by which DEs can be solved; DE is put in weighted integral form and
then an approximate solution over the domain assumed to be a linear combination

of appropriately chosen approximation functions

and unknown

2. differ from each other in the choice of the weight function and integral statement
used which in turn dictates choice of approximate functions

yield sufficient number of linearly independent equations for determination of

solution is piecewise over entire domain
difficult to construct approximate function for problems with arbitrary domains
coefficients are arbitrary

NOTE Variational Methods are not FEM- they are part of the pre-processing that leads to

weak form variational form total potential energy
there is a need to construct a weak form of DE and classify BCs
weak form weighted integral statement of DE in which the differentiation is distributed
between the dependent variable and the weight function and includes BCs
a weak form exists for all problems
The Variational Principle

In variational calculus we look for a function that minimises a functional
A functional is an equation which does not depend on coordinates but on functions. The
variables of the equation are functions

Variational Formulation
The variational statement can take several forms


An example is


It is essentially describes the potential energy of the system under investigation

The Ritz Method

The Ritz Method is a variational method
The exact solution of the governing equation is unknown but an approximate solution is
The fundamental idea behind this method is to find an approximate solution which
minimizes a certain functional and having the form


are unknown parameters/ Ritz coefficients and


are approximate/trial

The above Ritz function is a linear combination of N known functions that have unknown
These coefficients are adjustable and can be varied until the lowest energy configuration
is found i.e.

are determined by requiring that (

) is minimized with respect to

The trial functions must satisfy the essential BCs

Ritz Equations for the Coefficients
When the approximate solution is substituted into the functional and integrated, we get
as a function of the Ritz coefficents


The Ritz coefficient are adjusted such that i.e. is minimized with respect to the

This can be written as

The parameters are independent so

Are the N Ritz equations which give us the N Ritz parameters

If the functional is a quadratic the variation is given as

and are bilinear and linear forms
The Ritz approximation becomes



The system of linear Ritz equations


is the governing matrix

The Finite Element Method

FEM seeks a continuous (often polynomial) approximation of DE solution over each element
in terms of nodal values and assembly of element equations by imposing interelement
continuity of solution and balance of forces

Approximate solution takes the form

provides a systematic procedure to the for derivation of approximation functions over
sub-regions of the domain
approximate functions often called interpolation functions and the degree of the
function depends on number of nodes in element and order of DE being solved

geometrically complex domains of a problem are represented as a collection of
geometrically simple sub-domains finite elements
an approximate solution is derived over each element using the idea that ay continuous
function can be represented by linear combinations of algebraic polynomials
algebraic relations among unknown coefficients obtained by satisfying the governing
equation over each element
unknown coefficients represent actual values of the solution at the nodes

So we can say that :
FEM is essentially an element by element application of a variational method e.g. Ritz

although there is only one FEM, every problem solved using FEM can have several
different models depending on the method used to generate equations

Exact solution

Ritz piecewise
Exact solution
FEM element by
element solution