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Bioinspir Biomim. 2011 Dec;6(4):046010. doi: 10.1088/1748-3182/6/4/046010. Epub 2011 Nov 8.

Damping by branching: a bioinspiration from trees.

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Department of Mechanics, LadHyX, CNRS-École Polytechnique, 91128 Palaiseau, France.


Man-made slender structures are known to be sensitive to high levels of vibration due to their flexibility which often cause irreversible damage. In nature, trees repeatedly endure large amplitudes of motion, mostly caused by strong climatic events, yet with minor or no damage in most cases. A new damping mechanism inspired by the architecture of trees is identified here and characterized in the simplest tree-like structure, a Y-shaped branched structure. Through analytical and numerical analyses of a simple two-degree-of-freedom model, branching is shown to be the key ingredient in this protective mechanism that we call damping-by-branching. It originates in the geometrical nonlinearities so that it is specifically efficient to damp out large amplitudes of motion. A more realistic model, using flexible beam approximation, shows that the mechanism is robust. Finally, two bioinspired architectures are analyzed, showing significant levels of damping achieved via branching with typically 30% of the energy being dissipated in one oscillation. This concept of damping-by-branching is of simple practical use in the design of very slender and flexible structures subjected to extreme dynamical loadings.

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