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PHYS 705: Classical Mechanics


Constraints and
Generalized Coordinates
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Constraints
Problem Statement:
In solving mechanical problems, we start with the 2nd law

Fj
ji  Fi
(e)
 miri (*)

In principle, one can solve for ri(t) (trajectory) for the ith particle by
specifying all the external and internal forces acting on it .

However, if constraints are present, these external forces in


general are NOT known.

Therefore, we need to understand the various constraints and


know how to handle them.
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Holonomic Constraints
Holonomic constraints can be expressed as a function in terms of the
coordinates and time,
f  r1 , r2 ,; t   0

r  r 
2
e.g. (a rigid body)  i j  cij2  0

non-holonomic examples: -Gas in a container


-Object rolling on a rough surface without
slipping… more later

More quantifiers: - Rheonomous: depend on time explicitly


- Scleronomous: not explicitly depend on time

e.g. a bead constraints to move on a fixed vs. a moving wire


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Constraints and Generalized Coordinates


Difficulties involving constraints:

1. Through f  r1 , r2 , ; t   0 , the individual coordinates ri are


no longer independent

 eqs of motion (*) for individual particles are now coupled


(not independent)

2. Forces of constraints are not known a priori and must be solved


as additional unknowns

With holonomic constraints:

Prob #1 can be handled by introducing a set of “proper” (independent)


Generalized Coordinates

Prob #2 can be treated with: D’Alembert’s Principle & Lagrange’s Equations


(with Lagrange multipliers)
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Generalized Coordinates
• Without constraints, a system of N particles has 3N dof
• With K constraint equations, the # dof reduces to 3N-K
• With holonomic constraints, one can introduce (3N-K) independent
(proper) generalized coordinates  q1 , q2 , , q3 N  K  such that:
r1  r1  q1 , q2 , , q3 N  K , t 
 a point transformation
rN  rN  q1 , q2 , , q3 N  K , t 
 Generalized coordinates can be anything: angles, energy units, momentum
units, or even amplitudes in the Fourier expansion of ri

 But, they must completely specify the state of a given system

The choice of a particular set of generalized coordinates is not unique.

No specific rule in finding the most “suitable” (resulting in simplest EOM)
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Generalized Coordinates
Example: In regular Cartesian coord ri :
O
 x1 , y1 , x2 , y2  4 dof
x
1 l  x12  y12  l 2  0
2 constraints: 
(x1, y1)
   
2 2
 2 1
x  x  y 2  y1  l2  0
2 l
But, there are only 2 indep dof…

y
In generalized coord q : j
(x2, y2)
1 , 2  2 indep dof
(Double Plane Pendulum)
Coord Transformation:

(constraints are implicitly 1  tan 1  x1 y1 


encoded here)  2  tan 1   x2  x1   y2  y1  
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Non-Holonomic Constraints
- can’t use constraint equations to eliminate dependent coordinates
- in general, solution is problem specific.

Example: Vertical Disk rolling without slipping on a horizontal plane

z y
a Described by 4 coordinates:

(x, y) of the contact point
v : orientation of disk-
angle of disk axis with x-axis
 : angle of rotation of the disk

O x
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Non-Holonomic Constraints (rolling disk exp)

Now, consider the constraints:

1. No-slip condition:
s  a  v  a
y top view
2. Disk rolling vertically
 v  disk axis see graph v sin


v -v cos
 x  v sin  
 
 y  v cos  x
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Non-Holonomic Constraints (rolling disk exp)


Putting them together, gives the following differential equations of constraint,

 dx  d
 dt  a sin   a sin  dt  dx  a sin  d  0
  or 
 dy  a cos   a cos  d dy  a cos  d  0
 dt dt

The point is that we can’t write this in Holonomic form:

  f  x, y ,    0 with f being a function! (hw)

 Roll the disk in a circle with radius R.


Upon completion of the circle, x, y and  will have returned to their original
values  but,  will depend on R (can’t be specified by  x, y,   )
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How to deal with Constraints?


Principle of Virtual Work
Consider a system in equilibrium first,

- The net force on each particle vanishes: Fi  0 (note: i labels the particles)

Consider an arbitrary “virtual” infinitesimal change in the coordinates,  ri

- Virtual means that it is done with no change in time during which


forces and constraints do not change.

- These changes are done consistent with the constraints (we will be
more specific later).

Since all the Fi are zero (equilibrium), obviously we have  F  r  0


i
i i

(virtual work)
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Principle of Virtual Work


(a)
Separating the forces into applied Fi and constraint forces fi ,

Fi  Fi( a )  fi

Then,  i   ri   fi   ri  0
F
i
(a)

i
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Principle of Virtual Work


For virtual displacements to be consistent with the constraints means that

 the virtual work done by the constraint forces along the virtual displacement
must be zero.

Alternative geometric view (more a bit later)


fi
 ri For N particles with K constraints, motion is
restricted on a (3N-K)-D surface and the
fi   ri or fi   ri  0 constraint forces fi must be  to that surface.

For  ri to be consistent with constraints means that the net virtual work
of the forces of constraints is zero !

 f  r  0
i
i i
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Principle of Virtual Work


Back to our original equation for a constrained system in equilibrium,

 i   ri   fi   ri  0
F
i
(a)

This leaves us with the statement,

 i   ri  0
F
i
(a)

 The virtual work of the applied forces must also vanish!

This is called the Principle of Virtual Work.


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Principle of Virtual Work


 i   ri  0
F
i
(a)

Note: Since the coordinates (and the virtual variations) are not necessary
independent. They are linked through the constraint equations. The
Principle of Virtual Work does not implies,

Fi( a )  0 for all i independently.

The trick is now to change variables to a set of proper (independent)


generalized coordinates. Then, we can rewrite the equation as,

 ?
j
j
 q j  0

With qj being independent, we can then claim:  ?  j  0 for all j. As we will


see, this will give us expressions which will lead to the solution of the problem.
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D’Alembert’s Principle

Now, we consider the more general case when the system is not necessary in
equilibrium so that the net force on the particles is NOT zero. We
continue to assume the constraints forces to be unknown a priori…

Similar to our discussion on the Principle of Virtual Work, we would like to


reformulate the mechanical problem to include the constraint forces such
that they “disappear”  you solve the “new” problem using only the
(given) applied forces.

This is the basis for the D’Alembert’s Principle and by choosing a set of
proper generalized coordinates, it will result in the Euler-
Lagrange’s Equations.
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D’Alembert’s Principle

In deriving the Principle of Virtual Work, the system was in equilibrium.

In extending it to include dynamics , we will begin with the 2nd law,

Fi  p i or Fi  p i  0 for the ith particle in the system.

We again consider a virtual infinitesimal displacement  ri consistent with


the given constraint. Since we have Fi  p
 i  0 for all particles,

We have,   F  p    r  0
i
i i i

Again, we separate out the applied and constraint forces, Fi  Fi( a )  fi

This gives,  F
i
i
(a)
 p i    ri   fi   ri  0
i
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D’Alembert’s Principle

Then, following a similar argument for the virtual displacement to be


consistent with constraints, i.e,  f  r  0
i i
(no virtual work for fi)

 F  p i    ri  0
i
(a)
We can write down, i
i

This is the D’Alembert’s Principle.

Again, since the coordinates (and the virtual variations) are not necessary
independent. This does NOT implies, Fi  (a)
 p i   0 for the individual i.

We then need to look into changing variables to a set of independent generalized


coordinates so that we have  ? j
  q j  0 with the coefficients
in the sum independently equal to zero, i.e.,  ?   0
j
j
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Geometric View of the D’Alembert’s Principle

Consider a particle moving in 3D with one Holonomic constraint,

z
r  F(a)  f
equation of motion: m
r  ( x, y , z ) equation of constraint: g (r, t )  0

Here,
m
- F(a) is the known applied force
r (t)
- And, we model the unknown
y
constraint force by the vector f.

x
Note: r(t) has 3 unknown trajectory (red) is constraint to move in
components + 1 constraint a 3-1=2 dimensional surface (blue).
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Geometric View of the D’Alembert’s Principle


- There are three unknown components to the constraint force f. A scalar
constraint does not specify the vector f completely.
- There are multiple choices for f which satisfy g(r, t)=0 BUT there is an
additional physical restriction on f that we should consider…

z z

f f

y y

x x
Observation: For a given f, adding a component // to the surface will still
keep the particle on the surface (satisfying g(r, t)=0) but will result with an
additional acceleration along the surface).
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Geometric View of the D’Alembert’s Principle


 A reasonable physical argument is to restrict the choice of f so that:

Constraint Force f needs to lay  to the constraint surface

Note that g(r,t) =0 is the equation for the


z constraint surface and

 g (r, t )  surface
f

So, the  condition can be stated as,


y
g (r, t )  0 f   g (r, t ) where  can depend on t
x

x  F ( a )   g (r, t )  4 unknowns r and 


m
This gives,  4 equations
g (r, t )  0 
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Geometric View of the D’Alembert’s Principle

r  F ( a )   g (r, t ) 
m 4 unknowns r and 
 4 equations
g (r, t )  0 
This system is solvable but now we would like to solve the system w/o knowing
the constraint forces explicitly …

Note that g is  to the surface of constraint and we can project the dynamical
equation onto the tangent plane of the constraint surface at (r, t):

This gives two independent scalar equations,

 mr  F   e
(a)
a   g (r, t )  ea  0 where e a and eb are two basis
vectors spanning the tangent
 mr  F   e
(a)
b   g (r, t )  eb  0 plane to the constraint surface at
(r, t).
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Geometric View of the D’Alembert’s Principle

Together with the constraint equation itself, we then have 3 eqs for the 3
unknown components of r.

 mr  F   e
(a)
 0 
a ,b 3 unknowns r
 3 equations
g (r, t )  0 

So, now, in principle, we can solve for the dynamical equation (EOM), r(t),
without knowing the constraint forces f explicitly.

 mr  F   e
(a)
a ,b 0

 This is the D’Alembert’s Principle (for a single particle).


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Geometric View of the D’Alembert’s Principle

We can generalize the argument to a system of N particles with K constraints


(Holonomic):
Note: The virtual  ri
 mi (a)

ri  Fi  e k  0 displacements consistent
i with the constraints are
 
 
 i

p i  Fi 
(a)
  ri  0 

in the tangent space
spanned by the basis e k 

Geometric Interpretation:
The K constraints restrict the system to a (3N-K)-D surface within the 3N-D
space. There are (3N-K) ek vectors spanning that tangent plane to the
constraint surface so that the above expression gives (3N-K) equations that the
problem can be solved without knowing the constraint forces explicitly.
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D’Alembert’s Principle

 F
i
i
(a)
 p i    ri  0

To solve for EOM using the D’Alembert’s Principle …

We need to look into changing variables to a set of independent generalized


coordinates so that we have

 ?
j
j
 q j  0

Then, we can claim the coefficients  ?  j in the sum to be independently equal


to zero. The Euler-Lagrange equation will give an explicit expression for
the EOM as:
d  T  T
? j  0 
dt  q j
 
 q j
 Qj  0
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An Aside: Constraint and Work


Recall that we have from the EOM: r  F ( a )   g (r, t )
m

Let F(a) be a conservative force , i.e., F ( a )  U (r, t ) so that

mr  U  g


Dotting r into both sides,

d  1 2  dT
r  r 
m  mr   U  r  g  r
dt  2  dt
Consider the last term, from chain rule, we have,

dg  g x g y g z  g g
        g  
r  
dt  x t y t z t  t t
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An Aside: Constraint and Work

As the particle moves, it is constraint to stay on the g=0 surface,


g
 0 and,  g  r   
dg
So,
dt t

Similarly, from chain rule, we can write, U  r 


dU U

dt t
Putting everything together,

r  r  U  r  g  r
m
With E=T+U,

dT dU U g dE U g
    
dt dt t t dt t t
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An Aside: Constraint and Work


dE U g
 
dt t t
So, either U or g explicitly depends on time, the total energy changes with time.

Since we typically do not consider time-dependent U potential functions,


So, we can make the following assertions:

Scleronomous (g not explicitly depends on t) Holonomic Constraints:

g
 g  r    0 and constraint force won’t do work!
t
Rheonomous (g explicitly depends on t) Holonomic Constraints:

g
 g  r    0 and constraint force can do work!
t