Dynamics and control of flexible solar towers

Tuesday, October 27, 2015 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm EDT (GMT -04:00)

Speaker: Vakhtang Putkaradze, centennial professor of mathematics and statistics at the University of Alberta
Join us starting at 2 p.m. for coffee and conversation. The lecture will start at 2:30 p.m.

A video of Putkaradze’s talk can be found below or on our Vimeo page.


The use of solar chimneys for energy production has been suggested more than 100 years ago. Unfortunately, this technology has not been realized on a commercial scale, in large part due to the high cost of erecting tall towers using traditional methods of construction. Recent works have suggested a radical decrease in tower cost by using an inflatable self-supported tower consisting of stacked toroidal bladders. While the statics deflections of such towers under constant wind have been investigated before, the key for further development of this technology lies in the analysis of dynamics, which is the main point of this talk. Using Lagrangian reduction by symmetry, we develop a fully three-dimensional theory of motion for such towers and study the tower’s stability and dynamics. Next, we derive a geometric theory of optimal control for the tower dynamics using variable pressure inside the bladders, and perform detailed analytical and numerical studies of the control in two dimensions. Finally, we report on the results of experiments demonstrating the remarkable stability of the tower in real-life conditions, showing good agreement with theoretical results. This work has been supported by NSERC and the University of Alberta.

Vakhtang Putkaradze

Putkaradze is the centennial professor of mathematics at the University of Alberta. He obtained his PhD from the University of Copenhagen in 1997 and has since held academic positions at the universities of Chicago, New Mexico, Colorado State (both mathematics and biomedical engineering) and since 2012, has held an appointment as the centennial professor at the University of Alberta. In 2006 he was awarded a Humdoldt Fellowship. His research spans a very diverse number of areas, including geometric and variational methods in continuous media, mechanical resonators and renewable energy.

Remote video URL