Magnetically-induced buckling of a whirling conducting rod with applications to electrodynamic space tethers

J. Valverde & G.H.M. van der Heijden

We study the effect of a magnetic field on the behaviour of a slender conducting elastic structure, motivated by stability problems of electrodynamic space tethers. Both static (buckling) and dynamic (whirling) instability are considered and we also compute post-buckling configurations. The equations used are the geometrically exact Kirchhoff equations. Magnetic buckling of a welded rod is found to be described by a surprisingly degenerate bifurcation, which is unfolded when both transverse anisotropy of the rod and angular velocity are considered. By solving the linearised equations about the (quasi-) stationary solutions, we find various secondary instabilities. Our results are relevant for current designs of electrodynamic space tethers and potentially for future applications in nano- and molecular wires.

keywords: rod mechanics, Kirchhoff equations, magnetic buckling, degenerate pitchfork bifurcations, Hopf bifurcation, spinning electrodynamic tether

Journal of Nonlinear Science (in the press)