NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a compact tuned damper to reduce vibration occurring at a fixed frequency. Tuned dampers reduce vibration of the base structure by the dissipation of energy. The magnitude of the dissipated energy is proportional to the square of the displacement or velocity of the tuned mass, which in turn is proportional to the range of motion. The NASA damper design allows the slider mass to achieve 2× to 3× greater range of motion than that found in conventional devices. This enables 4× to 9× more effectiveness for the same size and weight; or the same effectiveness for a 4× to 9× decrease in weight. The damper is also tunable and can be adjusted in effectiveness. The damper can be made small enough for use in wind tunnel tests, or scaled up to large sizes like those used in helicopters, wind turbines, or skyscrapers.

The side view of the vibration damper.

Structural vibrations frequently need to be damped to prevent damage to a structure. To accomplish this, a standard linear damper or elastomeric-suspended masses are used. The problem associated with a linear damper is the space required for its construction. For example, if the damper’s piston is capable of three inches of movement in either direction, the connecting shaft and cylinder each need to be six inches long. Assuming infinitesimally thin walls, connections, and piston head, the linear damper is at least 12 inches long to achieve ±3 inches of movement. Typical components require 18+ inches of linear space. Further, tuning this type of damper typically involves fluid changes, which can be tedious and messy. Masses suspended by elastomeric connections enable even less range of motion than linear dampers.

The NASA invention is a compact and easily tunable structural vibration damper. The damper includes a rigid base with a slider mass for linear movement. Springs coupled to the mass compress in response to the linear movement along either of two opposing directions. A rack-and-pinion gear coupled to the mass converts the linear movement to a corresponding rotational movement. A rotary damper coupled to the converter damps the rotational movement. To achieve ±3 inches of movement, this design requires slightly more than six inches of space.

Potential applications include wind tunnel models, launch vehicles, smokestacks, helicopters, wind turbines, and skyscrapers.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact The Technology Gateway at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link for more information: http://technology.nasa.gov/patent/TB2016/LAR-TOPS-189 .


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2016 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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