Solitary shock waves and other travelling waves in a general compressible hyperelastic rod

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-363
Journal / PublicationProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number1994
Publication statusPublished - 2000


In the literature, it has been conjectured that solitary shock waves can arise in incompressible hyperelastic rods. Recently, it has been shown that this conjecture is true. One might guess that when compressibility is taken into account, such a wave, which is both a solitary wave and a shock wave, can still arise. One of the aims of this paper is to show the existence of this interesting type of wave in general compressible hyperelastic rods and provide an analytical description. It is difficult to directly tackle the fully nonlinear rod equations. Here, by using a non-dimensionalization process and the reductive perturbation technique, we derive a new type of nonlinear dispersive equation as the model equation. We then focus on the travelling-wave solutions of this new equation. As a result, we obtain a system of ordinary differential equations. An important feature of this system is that there is a vertical singular line in the phase plane, which leads to the appearance of shock waves. By considering the equilibrium points and their relative positions to the singular line, we are able to determine all qualitatively different phase planes. Those paths in phase planes which represent physically acceptable solutions are discussed one by one. It turns out that there is a variety of travelling waves, including solitary shock waves, solitary waves, periodic shock waves, etc. Analytical expressions for all these waves are obtained. A new phenomenon is also found: a solitary wave can suddenly change into a periodic wave (with finite period). In dynamical systems, this represents a homoclinic orbit suddenly changing into a closed orbit. To the authors' knowledge, such a bifurcation has not been found in any other dynamical systems. © 2000 The Royal Society.

Research Area(s)

  • Hyperelasticity, Rods, Shock waves, Solitary waves