Aeroelastic Flutter

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Flutter is a rather innocuous term for a potentially dangerous phenomenon that can occur for any flexible structure in a moving flow. Aeroelastic flutter occurs when aerodynamic forces and a structure’s natural modes of vibration get coupled: the surrounding flow causes the object to vibrate, which alters the nature of the aerodynamic forces on the object, which, in turn, feeds into the object’s vibration. In some cases, damping will contain the motion to a limit cycle, but under other conditions, flutter results in an uncontrollable self-exciting oscillation that persists until destruction, as in the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse.

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