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The time evolution of the driven mechanical oscillator discussed in Section 3.4 is governed by the
driven damped harmonic oscillator equation,

(124) 
Recall that the steady (i.e., constant amplitude) solution to this equation which we found earlier takes the form

(125) 
where
Now, Equation (124) is a secondorder ordinary differential equation, which means that its general solution should contain two arbitrary constants.
Note, however, that (125) contains no arbitrary constants. It follows that (125) cannot be the most general solution to the driven damped harmonic oscillator equation, (124). However, it is fairly easy to see that if
we add any solution of the undriven damped harmonic oscillator equation,

(128) 
to (125) then the result will still be a solution to Equation (124).
Now, from Section 3.1, the most general solution to the
above equation can be written

(129) 
where
, and and are arbitrary constants. [In terms of the standard solution (65), and .]
Thus, a more general solution to (124) is
In fact, since the above solution contains two arbitrary constants, we can be sure
that it is the most general solution. Of course, the constants and
are determined by the initial conditions. It is, thus, clear that the
most general solution to the driven damped harmonic oscillator equation (124)
consists of two parts. First, the solution (125), which oscillates at the driving frequency with a constant amplitude, and which is independent of the initial conditions. Second, the
solution (129), which oscillates at the natural frequency with an amplitude which decays exponentially in time, and
which depends on the initial conditions. The former is termed the
time asymptotic solution, since if we wait long enough then it
becomes dominant. The latter is called the transient solution, since if
we wait long enough then it decays away.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the system is initially in its equilibrium
state: i.e.,
. It follows from (130) that
These equations can be solved to give
Now, according to the analysis in Section 3.4, for driving frequencies
close to the resonant frequency (i.e.,
), we
can write
Hence, in this case, the solution (130), combined with (133)(137), reduces to
Figure 11:
Resonant response of a driven damped harmonic oscillator.

There are a number of interesting cases which are worth discussing. Consider,
first, the situation in which the driving frequency is equal to the resonant frequency: i.e.,
. In this case, Equation (138) reduces to

(139) 
since
. Thus, the driven response oscillates at the
resonant frequency, , since both the time asymptotic and transient solutions
oscillate at this frequency. However, the amplitude of the
oscillation grows monotonically as
, and
so takes a time of order to attain its final value , which
is, of course, larger that the driving amplitude by the resonant amplification
factor (or quality factor), . This behavior is illustrated in Figure 11.
[Here,
and
. The solid curve
shows and the dashed curves show .]
Figure 12:
Offresonant response of a driven undamped harmonic oscillator.

Consider, now, the situation in which there is no damping, so that . In this
case, Equation (138) yields

(140) 
where use has been made of the trigonometry identity
. It can be seen that the driven response oscillates relatively rapidly at the ``sum frequency''
with an amplitude
which modulates relatively slowly at the
``difference frequency''
. (Recall, that we are assuming that
is close to .) This behavior is illustrated in
Figure 12. [Here,
and
. The solid curve
shows and the dashed curves show .] The amplitude modulations shown
in Figure 12 are called beats, and are produced whenever two
sinusoidal oscillations of similar amplitude, and slightly different frequency,
are superposed. In this case, the two oscillations are the time asymptotic solution,
which oscillates at the driving frequency, , and the transient
solution, which oscillates at the resonant frequency, . The beats
modulate at the difference frequency,
. In the limit
, Equation (140) yields

(141) 
since
when . Thus, the resonant response of a
driven undamped oscillator is an oscillation at the resonant frequency whose
amplitude,
, increases linearly in time. In this case, the period of the beats has
effectively become infinite.
Figure 13:
Offresonant response of a driven damped harmonic oscillator.

Finally, Figure 13 illustrates the nonresonant response of a driven
damped harmonic oscillator, obtained from Equation (138). [Here,
,
, and
.]
It can be seen that the driven response grows, showing some initial evidence of
beat modulation, but eventually settles down to a steady pattern of oscillation.
This behavior occurs because the transient solution, which is needed to produce beats,
initially grows, but then damps away, leaving behind the constant amplitude
time asymptotic solution.
Next: Exercises
Up: Damped and Driven Harmonic
Previous: Driven Circuit
Richard Fitzpatrick
20101011