Investigation into the Local and Global Bifurcations of the Whirling Planar Pendulum

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Virginia Tech

This thesis details the investigation into the Whirling Planar Pendulum system. The WPP is a pendulum that is spun around a vertical spin axis at a controllable horizontal offset. This dynamical system exhibits both local and global bifurcations. The local pitchfork bifurcation leads to the splitting of a single stable equilibrium point into three (two stable and one unstable), as the spin rate is increased. The global bifurcations lead to two independent types of chaotic oscillations which are induced by sinusoidal excitations. The types of chaos are each associated with one of two homoclinic orbits in the system's phase portraits. The onset of each type of chaos is investigated through Melnikov's Method applied to the system's Hamiltonian, to find parameters at which the stable and unstable manifolds intersect transversely, indicating the onset of chaotic motion. These results are compared to simulation results, which suggest chaotic motion through the appearance of strange attractors in the Poincaré maps. Additionally, evidence of the WPP system experiencing both types of chaos simultaneously was found, resulting in a merger of two distinct types of strange attractor.

Chaos theory, Bifurcation theory, Whirling Planar Pendulum