Date of Award

Spring 2015

Project Type


Program or Major

Mechanical Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

John P McHugh

Second Advisor

Gregory P Chini

Third Advisor

Yannis P Korkolis


Nonlinear waves on an infinite string with a rapid change in properties at one location are treated. The string is an idealized version of more complex configurations in both fluids and solids. This idealized version treats the property change as an interface with a discontinuity in properties. Packets of waves are then considered with a reduced model, here a set of nonlinear Schr¨odinger (NLS) equations. The stress and the displacement must both be matched at the interface, resulting in dynamic and kinematic interfacial conditions. The dynamic condition produces an inhomogeneous effect that cannot be treated successfully with separation-of-variables. This inhomogeneity is treated here with a time-evolution approach using Laplace transforms. The results show that this inhomogeneity creates a mean longitudinal displacement on both sides of the interface and a shift in the position of the interface as the waves transit the interface. This mean longitudinal displacement corresponds to a sustained strain in the string. The mean longitudinal displacement develops three distinct features. One feature has a length scale that is half the wave-length of the incident waves, while the lengths of the other two features have the same order as the length of the wave packet. The position of maximum strain as a result of this mean is often at the interface, depending on parameter values. These results apply to a variety of applications, such as waves in ocean ice, Rayleigh waves caused by earthquakes, internal waves in the oceans and atmosphere, as well as waves in stretched cables.