Helical structure of travelling waves in a spinning Timoshenko beam

Stephen R Reid, N. R. Stephen, W. Q. Wang, K. T. Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


in a spinning Timoshenko beam. The associated changes in the structure of the progressive waves are investigated to shed light on the relationship between the wave motion in a spinning beam and the whirling of a shaft. The main result is that travelling bending waves in a beam spinning about its central axis have the topological structure of a revolving helix traced by the centroidal axis with right-handed or left-handed chirality. Each beam element behaves like a gyroscopic disc in precession being rotated at the wave frequency with anticlockwise or clockwise helicity. The gyroscopic effect is identified as the cause of the frequency splitting and is shown to induce a coupling between two interacting travelling waves lying in mutually orthogonal planes. Two revolving waves travelling in the same direction in space appear, one at a higher and one at a lower frequency compared with the pre-split frequency value. With reference to a given spinning speed, taken as clockwise, the higher one revolves clockwise and the lower one has anticlockwise helicity, each wave being represented by a characteristic four-component vector wavefunction.

Two factors are identified as important, the shear-deformation factor q and the gyroscopic-coupling phase factor theta. The q-factor is related to the wavenumber and the geometric shape of the helical wave. The theta-factor is related to the wave helicity and has two values, + pi/2 and -pi/2 corresponding to the anticlockwise and clockwise helicity, respectively. The frequency-splitting phenomenon is addressed by analogy with other physical phenomena such as the Jeffcott whirling shaft and the property of the local energy equality of a travelling wave. The relationship between Euler's formula and the present result relating to the helical properties of the waves is also explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3913-3934
Number of pages21
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London - A Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • helical wave
  • propagating wave
  • four-component vector wavefunction
  • gyroscopic effect
  • Timoshenko beam
  • Euler's formula
  • AXIS


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