A schematic of the Tension Element Vibration Damping technology. (Image: NASA)

Innovators at NASA Johnson Space Center have designed a circumferential scissor spring mechanism, NASA engineers have developed a new approach to mitigating unwanted structural vibrations. NASA’s method is fundamentally different from conventional passive and active vibration damping methods widely used today. Tension Element Vibration Damping uses disruptive modal coupling between two structures, each with their own vibrational behavior, to proactively provide vibration damping for one or both of the structures.

This novel vibration damping method reacts to and uses the vibrational tensile/compressive displacement itself to disrupt the vibration. Resistance to the displacement force is provided by either hydraulic, pneumatic, or magnetic means to suit the target application and the size/displacement of the vibration. Compared to conventional vibration passive and active damping methods, Tension Element Vibration Damping systems are simple in design, lightweight, highly effective, and adaptable to a range of applications with different structure sizes and types of vibration.

The method presents a novel method of managing the dynamic behavior of structures by capturing the vibrational displacement of the structure via a connecting link and using this motion to drive a resistive element. The resistive element then provides a force feedback that manages the dynamic behavior of the total system or structure. The damping force feedback can be a tensile or compressive force, or both. Purely tensile force has advantages for packaging and connection alignment flexibility while combined tensile/compression forces have the advantage of providing damping over a complete vibratory cycle.

This innovation can be readily applied to existing structures and incorporated into any given design as the connecting element is easily affixed to displacing points within the structure and the resistive element to be located in available space or a convenient location. The resistive element can be supplied by any one of either hydraulic, pneumatic, or magnetic forces.

As such the innovation can provide a wide range of damping forces, a linear damping function and/or an extended dynamic range of attenuation, providing broad flexibility in configuration size and functional applicability. NASA-built prototypes have been shown to be highly effective on a 170-foot-long wind turbine blade in test beds at the University of Maine.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact NASA’s Licensing Concierge at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call at 202-358-7432 to initiate licensing discussions. For more information, visit here .