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How to Calculate Catenary

By Allan Robinson, eHow Contributor

Catenaries with different scaling factors
Wikimedia Commons
A catenary is the shape that a cable assumes when it's supported at its ends and only acted on by its own weight.
It is used extensively in construction, especially for suspension bridges, and an upside-down catenary has been
used since antiquity to build arches. The curve of the catenary is the hyperbolic cosine function which has a U
shape similar to that of a parabola. The specific shape of a catenary may be determined by its scaling factor.
Difficulty: Moderately Challenging
Things You'll Need:
• Calculator with scientific functions
Calculating Catenary
1. 1
Calculate the standard catenary function y = a cosh(x/a) where y is the y Cartesian coordinate, x is the x
Cartesian coordinate, cosh is the hyperbolic cosine function and a is the scaling factor.
2. 2
Observe the effect of the scaling factor on the catenary's shape. The scaling factor may be though of as
the ratio between the horizontal tension on the cable and the weight of the cable per unit length. A low
scaling factor will therefore result in a deeper curve.
3. 3
Calculate the catenary function with an alternate equation. The equation y = a cosh(x/a) can be shown to
be mathematically equivalent to y = a/2 (e^(x/a) + e^(-x/a)) where e is the base of the natural logarithm
and is approximately 2.71828.
4. 4
Calculate the function for an elastic catenary as y = yo/(1 + et) where yo is the initial mass per unit
length, e is the spring constant and t is time. This equation describes a bouncing spring instead of a
hanging cable.
5. 5
Calculate a real-world example of a catenary. The function y = -127.7 cosh(x/127.7) + 757.7 describes
the St. Louis Arch where the measurements are in units of feet.
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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This article is about the mathematical curve. For other uses, see Catenary (disambiguation).

"Chainette" redirects here. For the wine grape also known as Chainette, see Cinsaut.

A hanging chain forms a catenary.

The silk on a spider's web forming multiple elastic catenaries.

In physics and geometry, the catenary is the curve that an idealised hanging chain or cable assumes when
supported at its ends and acted on only by its own weight. The curve is the graph of the hyperbolic cosine
function, and has a U-like shape, superficially similar in appearance to a parabola (though mathematically quite
different). Its surface of revolution, the catenoid, is a minimal surface and is the shape assumed by a soap film
bounded by two parallel circular rings.

• 1 History
• 2 The inverted catenary arch
• 3 Simple suspension bridges
• 4 Anchoring of marine objects
• 5 Mathematical description
○ 5.1 Equation
○ 5.2 Other properties
○ 5.3 Analysis
 5.3.1 Alternative 1
 5.3.2 Alternative 2
• 6 Variations
○ 6.1 Elastic catenary
○ 6.2 Equal resistance catenary
○ 6.3 Towed cables
• 7 Alternative analysis
• 8 Alternative analysis "towed cables"
• 9 See also
• 10 References
• 11 Bibliography
• 12 External links

[edit] History
The word catenary is derived from the Latin word catena, which means "chain". Huygens first used the term
catenaria in a letter to Leibniz in 1690. However, Thomas Jefferson is usually credited with the English word
catenary.[1] The curve is also called the "alysoid", "chainette",[2] or, particularly in the material sciences,
It is often stated[4] that Galileo thought that the curve followed by a hanging chain is a parabola. A careful
reading of his book Two new sciences[5] shows this to be an oversimplification. Galileo discusses the catenary in
two places; in the dialog of the Second Day he states that a hanging chain resembles a parabola. But later, in the
dialog of the Fourth Day, he gives more details, and states that a hanging cord is approximated by a parabola,
correctly observing that this approximation improves as the curvature gets smaller and is almost exact when the
elevation is less than 45o. That the curve followed by a chain is not a parabola was proven by Joachim Jungius
(1587–1657) and published posthumously in 1669.[6][7]
The application of the catenary to the construction of arches is due to Robert Hooke, who discovered it in the
context of the rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral,[8] possibly having seen Huygens' work on the catenary. (Some
much older arches are also approximate catenaries.)

gives the surface of minimum surface area (the catenoid) for the given bounding circle. .[2] [edit] The inverted catenary arch This section does not cite any references or sources. David Gregory wrote a treatise on the catenary in 1697. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources." He did not publish the solution of this anagram[11] in his lifetime. Barcelona.[10] where he wrote that he had found "a true mathematical and mechanical form of all manner of Arches for Building.In 1671. when rotated about the x-axis.[7] Euler proved in 1744 that the catenary is the curve which. stand the touching pieces of an arch. Hooke announced to the Royal Society that he had solved the problem of the optimal shape of an arch." In 1691 Gottfried Leibniz. Christiaan Huygens. (November 2009) Arch of Taq-i Kisra in Ctesiphon as seen today is roughly but not exactly a catenary. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. but in 1705 his executor provided it as Ut pendet continuum flexile. inverted. sic stabit contiguum rigidum inversum. meaning "As hangs a flexible cable so. and in 1675 published an encrypted solution as a Latin anagram[9] in an appendix to his Description of Helioscopes. Spain that are close to catenaries. and Johann Bernoulli derived the equation in response to a challenge by Jakob Bernoulli. Arches under the roof of Gaudí's Casa Milà.

Gaudi's catenary model at Casa Milà Hooke discovered that the catenary is the ideal curve for an arch of uniform density and thickness which supports only its own weight. In this construction technique.[citation needed] .e.[13][14] However the conditions for a catenary to be the ideal arch are almost never fulfilled: arches usually support more than their own weight.[12] Catenary arches are often used in the construction of kilns. the arch endures almost pure compression. inverted) catenary.[citation needed] The Sheffield Winter Garden is enclosed by a series of catenary arches. and on the rare occasions when they are freestanding they are sometimes not of uniform thickness. the shape of a hanging chain of the desired dimensions is transferred to a form which is then used as a guide for the placement of bricks or other building material. When the centerline of an arch is made to follow the curve of an up-side-down (i. in which no significant bending moment occurs inside the material.

having lighter links in the middle.) While a catenary is the ideal shape for a freestanding arch of constant thickness.[16] [edit] Simple suspension bridges . (A catenary would have AB=1. with equation y=Acosh(Bx). the Gateway Arch is narrower near the top.S. Missouri. United States is sometimes said to be an (inverted) catenary. National Historic Landmark nomination for the arch.The Gateway Arch (looking East) is a flattened catenary. but this is incorrect. According to the U. would form. it is a "weighted catenary" instead. Louis.[15] It is close to a more general curve called a flattened catenary. Its shape corresponds to the shape that a weighted chain. Catenary arch kiln under construction over temporary form The Gateway Arch in St.

An anchor rode (or anchor line) usually consists of chain and/or cable. but suspension bridge chains or cables do not hang freely since they support the weight of the bridge. the cables follow a catenary curve.In simple suspension bridges such as the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Particularly with larger vessels. Free-hanging chains follow the catenary curve. There is also typically a section of rode above the water and thus unaffected by buoyancy. the result is a parabola.[citation needed] Golden Gate Bridge. California. the suspension cables initially sag as the catenary curve.[citation needed] When the force exerted is uniform with respect to horizontal distance. San Francisco.[18] The catenary curve in this context is only fully present in the anchoring system when the rode has been lifted clear of the seabed by the vessel's pull. and then gradually assume a parabolic curve as additional connecting cables are tied to connect the main suspension cables with the bridge deck below. In most cases the weight of the cable is negligible compared with the weight being supported. wind turbines and other marine assets which must be anchored to the seabed. as in a suspension bridge. as the seabed obviously affects its shape while it supports the chain or cable. before being tied to the deck below. where the weight runs parallel to the cables. docks. the catenary curve given by the weight of the rode presents a lower angle of pull on the anchor or mooring device. Anchor rodes are used by ships. oilrigs. With smaller vessels and in shallow water it is less effective. Most suspension bridge cables follow a parabolic.[17] When suspension bridges are constructed. This assists the performance of the anchor and raises the level of force it will resist before dragging. [edit] Mathematical description . as in a simple suspension bridge. [edit] Anchoring of marine objects The catenary form given by gravity is taken advantage of in its presence in heavy anchor rodes. the result is a catenary. When the force exerted is uniform with respect to the length of the chain. creating a slightly more complicated curve. not catenary curve.

[20] A parabola rolled along a straight line traces out a catenary (see roulette) with its focus. Differentiating gives and eliminating gives the Cesàro equation: . The Whewell equation for the catenary is . but the catenary must have parameters corresponding to the shape and dimensions of the wheels. Changing the parameter a is equivalent to a uniform scaling of the curve.[edit] Equation Catenaries for different values of a The equation of a catenary in Cartesian coordinates has the form[19] .[2] Square wheels can roll perfectly smoothly if the road has evenly spaced bumps in the shape of a series of inverted catenary curves. where cosh is the hyperbolic cosine function. The wheels can be any regular polygon except a triangle.[21] . [edit] Other properties All catenary curves are similar to each other.

. The chain is flexible so it can only exert a force parallel to itself. Since tension is defined as the force that the chain exerts on itself. .[22] [edit] Analysis We assume that the path followed by the chain is given parametrically by where s represents arc length and is the position vector. This is the natural parameterization and has the property that is the unit tangent vector. This is done by a careful inspection of the various forces acting on a small segment of the chain and using the fact that these forces must be in balance if the chain is in static equilibrium. Divide by Δs and take the limit as to obtain . and the external force acting on the segment which is approximately . must be parallel to the chain. Over any horizontal interval [a.[citation needed] The surface of revolution with fixed radii at either end that has minimum surface area is a catenary revolved about the x-axis. independent of the interval selected. Second. the nearly opposite force at the other end. Also. the ratio of the area under the caternary to its length equals a. It is now possible to derive two equations which together define the shape of the curve and the tension of the chain at each point. where T is the magnitude of . The forces acting on the segment of the chain between s and s + Δs are the force of tension at one end of the segment. The catenary is the only plane curve other than a horizontal line with this property. First. a positive scalar function of s. These forces must balance so .b]. the geometric centroid of the area under a stretch of catenary is the midpoint of the perpendicular segment connecting the centroid of the curve itself and the x-axis. The derivation of the curve for an optimal arch is similar except that the forces of tension become forces of compression and everything is inverted.A charge in a uniform electric field moves along a catenary (which tends to a parabola if the charge velocity is much less than the speed of light c). In other words. let be the force of tension as a function of s. let be the external force per unit length acting on a small segment of a chain as a function of s.

where the chain has constant mass per unit length λ and the only external force acting on the chain is that of a uniform gravitational field . . so equations (1) and (2) can be used as the starting point in the analysis of a flexible chain acting under any external force. we can continue the derivation in two ways. In this case. up till now. In general. Integrating we get. So we have . Note that the horizontal component of the tension is a constant. The point from which s is measured is arbitrary. From here. The next step is to put in the specific expression for and solve the resulting equations. So c is the tension of the chain at its lowest point this point occurs at s = − d / λg. [edit] Alternative 1 If is the tangential angle of the curve then is parallel to so . Write to combine constants and obtain the Whewell equation for the curve. so pick this point to be the minimum. parametric equations can be obtained from a Whewell equation by integrating: . no assumptions have been made regarding the force . . Note that at the minimum the curve is horizontal and . The equation becomes . giving d = 0.Note that.

[edit] Alternative 2 From . We can eliminate u to obtain where α and β are constants to be determined. . . make the substitution (or where gd is the Gudermannian function). along with a.To find these integrals. where same as before. The integrals of the right hand sides of these equations can be found using standard techniques giving . Usually these conditions include two points from which the chain is being suspended and the length of the chain. Then and . Then and . by the boundary conditions of the problem.

combining constants. along with a. . or. Then the equation for the vertical component of is . is a constant c. which is exact the same result as that obtained with Alternative 1.Isolating s in the first equation and using the result to substitute s in the second equation gives as before. but is allowed to stretch in accordance with Hooke's Law. . So the horizontal component of . α and β are constants to be determined. Putting this into the equation for density produces . Using the substitution gives or . the cable replaced by a spring and is no longer assumed to be of fixed density. [edit] Variations [edit] Elastic catenary In an elastic catenary. the mass per unit length is no longer constant but can be given as where λ0 is the mass per unit length for the chain in its relaxed state and ε is the spring constant. As in the earlier derivation. by the boundary conditions of the problem. In this case.

Then the equation for the vertical component of is . corresponding to a completely inelastic cable. When a = 0. the mass per unit length can be given as λ = λrT where λr is the mass per unit length per unit of tension force required for the chain to resist breaking. so its resistance to breaking is constant along its length. Putting this into the equation for density produces . . Assuming that the strength of the cable is proportional to its density. this is a parabola. [edit] Equal resistance catenary In an equal resistance catenary. similar to a Slinky. As in the earlier derivation. corresponding to the case there the cable essentially has length 0 in its relaxed state. When a and b are both >0 then the curve is intermediate between a catenary and a parabola. Parametric equations can be obtained by integrating: . combining constants. cable is strengthened according to the magnitude of the tension at each point. or . this is simply the catenary. So the horizontal component of . is a constant c. When b = 0. or. . .

and the Drag coefficient. . we assume we have a cylindrical cable that is acted on by drag forces due to the movement of some surrounding fluid (e. (Velocity is assumed to be vertical here to preserve similarities with the gravitational case. If denotes the unit normal vector. The force acting on the cable. Multiplying both sides by ds / dx gives . Another integration produces . then . . From equations (1) and (2) above. the diameter of the cable.g. [edit] Towed cables Instead of gravity. following the Drag equation is where c is a constant depending on the density of the fluid. The cable is assumed to be smooth so the force on the cable due to is taken to be negligible. air or water). The velocity relative to the cable is assumed to be a constant .) To compute the force due to drag. This can be reduced to a differential equation of degree one using separation of variables to obtain or . write where and respectively are the components parallel to and orthogonal to the cable. So .

As the gravitational force is directed downwards the horizontal components of the forces acting on the extremes must have the same magnitude. This is a case where a different expression for the force acting on the chain/cable produce the same curve but a different expression for tension. The vector sum of the forces acting on the segment from the two extremities and from the gravitational force must be zero. In applications. As this is true for any segment of the catenary this is a fixed constant for the whole of the catenary. . Setting the coefficients of and equal produces . So T is a constant in this case and combining constants in the second equation gives which is one of the equations for the catenary given above. the force of gravity and additional terms in the force due to drag may be added to the expression for force. [edit] Alternative analysis Figure 1: The forces acting on the two extremes of a segment of a catenary decomposed into horizontal and vertical components The forces acting on a segment of catenary curve are shown in the figure at right. yielding equations that must be solved numerically. Denoting this constant with f one gets that the vertical component of the force at the left extreme x1 is and at the right extreme x2 is The path length of the curve representing a function y(x) with x varying from x1 to x2 is .

e. i. with respect to x2. (1 ) Denoting the constant ratio with a and taking the derivative of equation (1) with respect to the upper limit of the integral. i. one gets Denoting with z this equation takes the form what means that for the inverse function x(z) one has which is integrate to where x0 is the constant of integration or equivalently Again integrating with respect to x one gets (2 ) where y0 is the second constant of integration The lowest point of this curve has the coordinates The length of the curve given by (2) from x = x1 to x = x2 is .e.If g is the gravitational constant and ρ is the mass per length unit of the chain the gravitational force acting on the arc from x1 to x2 is This force must be compensated by the vertical components of the forces acting on the two extremes of the arc.

In case y1 = y2. i. . This means that have to be determined such that (4 ) (5 ) (6 ) Setting subtracting (4) from (5) and then dividing with a one gets (7 ) For any given values one can determine from (7) When has been determined is computed by solving a quadratic equation. in the case that the two attachment points are at the same heigth. one has that x0 = xm and that the length is With x0 known (4) or (5) can subsequently be used to determine y0. In a typical case the form of a chain having a given length l and being attached in two fixed point with the coordinates and relative a vertical coordinate system should be computed. (3 ) This family of solutions is parametrized with the 3 parameters .e. For any concrete case these 3 parameters must be computed to fit the boundary value conditions.

Having determined x0 with the algorithm just described the curve length l corresponding to the selected a value can be computed from (6). Figure 2:The red line corresponds to parameters X_0 and Y_0 + a determined with the algorithm described above for different values of a From figure 1 it is further clear that the tension of the chain at any point is where is the magnitude of the constant horizontal force component If the mass density ρ is not constant but varies depending on some law the resulting differential equation will in most cases not have a closed form analytic solution. With an iterative algorithm the a value that corresponds to a certain curve length l can finally be derived. They can for example be adjusted iteratively such . The free parameters to be iteratively adjusted to fit the boundary constraints are now z(x1) and f. But the resulting curve can still be determined with arbitrary accuracy by the numerical integration of the differential equations Given any initial values for y(x1) and z(x1) and any value for the parameter f these differential equations can be propagated to x = x2 with ρ specified as any function of the state variable z.

that y(x2) = y2 where is the second attachment point. A case where a closed form mathematical solution is possible is the case of "the equal resistance catenary" where the mass density (mass per unit length) is proportional to the force . An example is the "elastic catenary" for which the force stretches the material with a factor where ε is an elasticity coefficient and that therefore the mass density (mass per unit length) is where ρ0 is the mass density of the material in the absence of stress.e. where ρ0 is the density at the lowest point Setting the differential equations now take the form what means that for the inverse function x(z) one has which is integrate to where x0 is the constant of integration or equivalently . This leaves an additional degree of freedom for the two parameters that can be used to get the correct length of the curve. i.

The forces acting on a cable subject to drag. The cable is assumed to be smooth so the force on the cable due to is taken to be negligible. write where and respectively are the components parallel to and orthogonal to the cable. . The medium causing the drag is moving downwards.e. As when for any constant C it follows from (6) that by making a catenary that is fixed at two points sufficiently long the constant horizontal force component f can be made arbitrarily small. as a must be larger then for any x between x1 and x2 the positions of the two attachment points and the density ρ0 at the lowest point impose a lower limit for the fixed horizontal force component f [edit] Alternative analysis "towed cables" The following figure illustrates a segment of a cable that is fixed in both ends and exposed to drag. The drag force is orthogonal to the cable and the forces acting on the two extremities of the segment compensate the net drag force on the segment The velocity relative to the cable is assumed to be constant and the coordinate system is selected such that this velocity is in the -y direction. To compute the force due to drag. For this generalized "catenary of equal resistance" this is no more true. following the Drag equation is therefore . i.where x is constraint to an interval Again integrating with respect to x one gets where y0 is the second constant of integration. per unit length. The force acting on the cable.

For any curve y(x) the tangent (unit vector) is (2 ) and the normal (unit vector) is (3 ) From (1) and (3) follows that (4 ) From (3) and (4) follows that the x-component of the total force on the segment of the curve from x = x1 to x = x2 is (5 ) and the component in the y-direction is (6 ) If now one has that and from (2).with (1 ) where c is a constant depending on the density of the fluid. and the Drag coefficient and denotes the unit normal vector. the diameter of the cable.(5) and (6) that .

the shape of a spun rope [edit] References 1. 124 . ^ MathWorld 3. Pballew. ^ e. 1995-11-21. Prentice Hall. ^ For example Lockwood p.html#catenary. 22. ^ ""Catenary" at Math Words". OCLC 148137330. ISBN 9780130488794. Daniel L.pballew.g. a b c 2. (2004).an elliptic/hyperbolic catenary • Troposkein . Structures (5th ed. (7 ) (8 ) If the now the force in the cable is the force at the right extreme of the cable segment is and at the left extreme From (7) and (8) follows that the vector sum of these forces is precisely the force needed to counter act the forces on the segment caused by the drag [edit] See also • Overhead lines • Roulette (curve) .).: Shodek. http://www. Retrieved 2010-11-17.

html 16. 11. Trans. 22. Notices of the American Mathematical Society 57 (2): 220–229. or "The Arch".shtml. "Chapter 13: The Tractrix and Catenary". ISBN 0-547-16702-4. Dialogues concerning two new sciences. 290. • Weisstein. http://pdfhost. Jan (2003).^ Laura Soullière Harrison (1985) (PDF). New Holland. p. which appeared in the next paragraph.Anchor Systems For Small Boats". p. ^ Swetz. 14. http://www. Peterson. p. Retrieved March 27. Rope. Bruce http://www. Bekken. ^ "Monuments and Microscopes: Scientific Thinking on a Grand Scale in the Early Royal Society" by Lisa Jardine 9.^ "Chain.^ Larson. 2009. 10.nps. 2003-05-28. (1961). "Mathematics of the Gateway Arch". ISBN 1843309106. E.ams. Mathematics Magazine 83: 63-64 [edit] Bibliography • Lockwood. ^ Galileo Galilei (1914). a b 7.^ The original anagram was "abcccddeeeeefggiiiiiiiillmmmmnnnnnooprrsssttttttuuuuuuuux": the letters of the Latin phrase. Calculus. Ron. ISBN 1856693546. Wood-fired Ceramics: Contemporary Practices. 2006). Retrieved 2010- ISBN 0812235142. 36. Sanderson. "Hanging With Galileo". Coll. Wolfram Demonstrations Project. aerial. 124 8.^ Peterson. Lindahall. ^ cf. Whistler Alley Mathematics. from 1975PDF (578 KB) 17.petersmith. ISSN 0002-9920.^ Hymers. 15. the anagram for Hooke's law. Retrieved 2010-11- (2010).com/hanging/hanging. University of Pennsylvania. Cambridge. pp. Edward (2010). Robert (2010). Eric W. "A Property Characterizing the Catenary". 5. 224. id=SPhnaiERbWcC. Retrieved 2010-11-17.^ Osserman. Cengage 13. 20. http://books. Macmillan..^ "Arch Design". 393. . California: Brooks/^ Paul Kunkel (June 30. http://www.^ Parker. pp. http://whistleralley. 12.php. alphabetized. retrieved 2009-06-21 and Accompanying one photo. Henry Crew & Alfonso de Salvio. Belmont. 2002-10-28. 2007. Planning and Building a Conservatory. and Catenary . 19. 149. National Park Service. "Learn from the Masters. The Craft and Art of Clay: A Complete Potter's Handbook. Paul (2005). Xahlee. http://xahlee.^ "Roulette: A Comfortable Ride on an n-gon Bicycle" by Borut Levart. "Catenary" from MathWorld. Laurence King. 21. National Register of Historic Places Inventory- Nomination: Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Gateway Arch / Gateway Arch. http://www.lindahall. ^ Lockwood p. MAA ISBN 0-88385-703-0. A Book of Curves.^ Minogue. 18." 1997. Robert (2000).^ "Catenary". Susan. 6.

• Hexagonal Geodesic Domes .org/wiki/Catenary" Categories: Curves | Differential equations | Exponentials | Analytic geometry Hidden categories: Articles needing additional references from November 2009 | All articles needing additional references | All articles with unsourced statements | Articles with unsourced statements from November 2010 | Articles with unsourced statements from December 2010 | Articles with unsourced statements from August 2009 Personal tools • Log in / create account Namespaces • Article • Discussion Variants .uk/Curves/ including C program to calculate the curve. Robertson.html . • "Catenary of equal resistance" at Encyclopédie des Formes Mathématiques Remarquables • "Catenary" at Visual Dictionary of Special Plane Curves • Hanging With Galileo .Catenary Domes. Devised by Jonathan Lansey • Horizontal Conveyor Arrangement . http://www-history.wikipedia. hyperbolic suspensions. an article about creating catenary domes • Dynamic as well as static cetenary curve equations derived . • Cable Sag Error Calculator .Diagrams of different horizontal conveyor layouts showing options for the catenary section both supported and unsupported • Catenary curve derived .Calculates the deviation from a straight line of a catenary curve and provides derivation of the calculator and references. Edmund F. interactive graphical demo of parabolic andrews. MacTutor History of Mathematics archive. • "Chaînette" at Encyclopédie des Formes Mathématiques Remarquables • "Chaînette élastique" at Encyclopédie des Formes Mathématiques Remarquables • "Courbe de la corde à sauter" at Encyclopédie des Formes Mathématiques Remarquables [edit] External links Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Catenary Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Catenary.An easy way to demonstrate the Mathematical properties of a cosh using the hanging cable effect. Retrieved from "http://en.mathematical derivation of formula for suspended and free-hanging chains.The shape of a catenary is derived.. Solution to the equations discussed.The equations governing the shape (static case) as well as dynamics (dynamic case) of a centenary is derived. John J. plus examples of a chain hanging between 2 points of unequal height.. University of St Andrews. "Catenary". • O'Connor. • Catenary Demonstration Experiment .

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A flexible cable with length 150 feet is to be suspended between two poles with height 100 ft. (1) The minimum value of f occurs when x = 0 and the minimum value of f at x = 0 is 50 so c + a = 50 (2) .A Graphing Calculator Approach to the Examples We provide a graphing calculator approach to the solutions of the example problems in the catenary demo. Example 1. Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation.. Then f(-s) = f(s) = 100 so we have c + a cosh(s/a) = 100. a non-profit organization. Inc.. See Terms of Use for details. • Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. We illustrate the solutions using the TI-83 but most other graphing calculators have similar built-in features. • Contact us The Utility of Catenaries to Electric Utilities . • Deutsch • Español • Français • Galego • Italiano • ‫עברית‬ • Magyar • മലയാളം • Nederlands • 日本語 • Piemontèis • Polski • Português • Русский • Suomi • Svenska • Українська • 中文 • This page was last modified on 9 January 2011 at 18:31. How far apart must the poles be spaced so that at its lowest point the cable is 50 feet off the ground? We obtain the system of equations: Let f(x) = c + a cosh(x/a). additional terms may apply..

The length of the wire is 150 feet. The integral can be evaluated directly Thus. The system of three equations can be reduced to a system of two equations by setting c = 50 . and s. (3) A bit of work gives the following: which simplifies to . With some rearrangement. we can interpret the length of the wire as the arc length of the graph of f from x = -s to x = s. In the context of the catenary function. our problem is to solve a system of three equations in three unknowns: c + a cosh(s/a) = 100 a + c = 50 2a sinh(s/a) = 150 for a. This gives a third equation.a. c. we obtain cosh(s/a) = (50+a)/a sinh(s/a) = 75/a Each equation can be solved for s (in terms of a) by using inverse functions: We can now use a crossing graphs approach which will require that we use the intersect function on the TI-83 .

xmax = 50 ymin = 0. ymax = 100 Step 3: Adjust the window so that the intersection can be clearly seen.Step 1: Associate a with x and s with y. xmin = 25. . You may need to experiment with the graphing window. Define the functions. xmin = 0. In this graph. In this graph. Step 2: Graph the functions. xmax = 35 ymin = 45. Step 5: Enter the second curve. Step 5: Enter the first curve. ymax = 55 Step 4: From the CALC menu. select intersect.

a) + a cosh(170/a) = 34 or a cosh(170/a) . Coordinates of intersection displayed. We will assume that the distance between poles is 340 feet and that we want the minimum clearance to be 20 feet. Step 7. But by rewriting Eq. the average distance between utility poles ranges from 325 to 340 feet. Excelsior EMC prefers that the distance from its lines to the ground is greater than 18' 6 '' at all times. Example 2. Enter the guess.. easements.a = 14. Excelsior Electric Membership Corp. the distance between the poles is about 100. With these restrictions in mind. special permits may be granted by the DOT for heights up to 18 feet. The Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) [3] states that the maximum height of a truck using interstates. Thus.Step 6. (5) We can use a crossing graphs approach (the intersect function) of the calculator to obtain a numerical approximation for the value of a. national. For the obvious reason.14 = 0 we put the equation into a form so that we can use the zero function. Problem: Find a and c so that f(x) = c + a cosh(x/a) models this situation. According to our electric utility. . we require that f(-170) = f(170) = 34 and f(0) = 20. (5) below: a cosh(170/a) . Proceeding as in the previous example. GA [2]. (Excelsior EMC) in Metter. However. etc. due to terrain.6 feet.a . Excelsior EMC maintains a minimum clearance of 20 feet under those lines it installs during cooler months because expansion causes lines to sag during warmer months. These two conditions give the equations c + a cosh(170/a) = 34 (3) c + a = 20 (4) which can be reduced to the single equation (20 . and state routes is 13 feet and 6 inches.

The window dimensions here were xmin =900. Select zero from the CALC menu. Step 4. Step 2. Enter right bound. Enter left bound. Associate the variable a with x and enter the left hand side as y1. Adjust the scale as necessary so that you can see the x-intercept. xmax = 1100 ymin = -5. . Step 6. ymax = 5 Step 3. Step 5. Enter a guess. Plot the function.Step 1.

4678. The x-coordinate of the intersection gives the value of a = 1034. so for this example c = -1014. Graph the function. huh? We'll look at this later. Here the limits were xmin = -170. ymax = 3 Interesting.a. Step 4. . Enter the function to be integrated: Step 2. Step 1. With this information we can obtain the length of the wire between the poles by computing the arc length integral. Select lower limit of integration. The intersection is shown. xmax = 170 ymin = -5. Step 3.Step 7. We can compute c directly: c = 20 .4678. Select the integration function.

Because the scale of the limits of integration relative to the denominator. shouldn't we expect to have a curve? In fact. This graphical approach to the integration leads to an interesting discussion about the hyperbolic functions and their graphs.53 feet. Select upper limit of integration. The length of wire is about 341. we do. The value of the definite integral is shown. By changing the xmin and xmax dimensions of the graphing window to be of the same order as the denominator. Our original graph only showed the relatively flat area of the hyperbolic cosine function. the arc length integral is equivalent to This formulation of the integral still does not directly explain the flatness of the graph. we see that the graph of the integrand does have the typical shape of a hyperbolic cosine function. the bending of the graph is obscured. A closer look yields the following: Thus. Note that the area under the curve is shaded. Students should wonder why the graph in Step 2 appears to be linear. Since the integrand is a hyperbolic function.Step 5. Step 6. .

LFR 12/31/2003 Deriving the Catenary Curve Equation A catenary curve describes the shape the displacement cable takes when subjected to a uniform force such as gravity. forces acting on this section need to balance each other. Let dx and dy be projections of section 1-2 length to X and Y axes respectively. Displacement Cable Idealized As A Catenary Curve The equation of a catenary curve can be derived by examining a very small part of a cable and all forces acting on it (see Figure 2) Figure 2 .Forces Acting on a Part of Cable (Section 1-2) Here h is the sag the cable gets under the action of gravitational force. Let the distance between point 1 and 2 be so small. Let α be the angle between the X axis and cable section 1-2. The sum of these forces need to equal to zero. that cable segment 1-2 is linear. The equation was obtained by Leibniz and Bernoulli in 1691 in response to a challenge by Bernoulli and Jacob. This curve is the shape of a perfectly flexible chain suspended by its ends and acted on by gravity. To simplify. Weight is directed downwards. For cable section 1-2 to be at rest and equilibrium with the rest of cable. we will examine two points on the cable: points 1 and 2. It is directed at a tangent to cable curve and depends only on the coordinates of cable point. Formula Explanation . parallel to Y axis. Let P be the weight of cable section 1-2. A tightening force is acting at every point of cable. Let the tightening force at point 1 be N and that at point 2 be N+dN. where dN is a small addition due to difference of coordinates.

where C1 and C2 are coefficients that are defined by point of origin in concerned system. We see from Figure 2 that the ratio of tighting force projections (N) is found to be a slope ratio of the force N (see formula 3). These equations give us the value for cable weight P (formula 2). Using formula 2. where l is the straightline distance between the position transducer and the application (Figure 1). . we get the final equation for cable form (formula 8). If we differentiate this ratio by x. Cable sag (h) is value of cable form equation for point l/2 (formula 12). If we state formula 7. cable weight P is cable weight per unit length (q) mutliplied by differential of arc (dS) (formula 5). Here Nx and Ny are projections of tighting force N to X an Y axes correspondingly. We will solve this equation using substitution (formula 9).Projections of sum of all forces acting at section 1-2 to X and Y axes should look like formula 1. At the same time. we get second derivative of ratio (formula 4). Hence the equation of cable form looks like formula 11. For cable length. we will use the formula for the length of the catenary curve (formula 13). then C1 = 0 and C2 = 1. we can see that first derivative of projecting of tightening force to Y axis can be showed by the differential of arc (formula 6). This formula is wide-known as that for the catenary curve. Finally we get (formula 10). We assume this point to be the lowest point of cable.

Additional information on the catenary curve can be found at: .0025%). we can use formulas 7-14 to calculate the cable sag and cable length: Variable Formula Value Cable mass per unit length * Force perpendicular to q 0. • The word catenary is derived from the Latin word for "chain. The cable sag error is minor compared to other error sources (generally less than ± 0. The input data we have is: Default Field Sybmol Units value Cable tension Nx N 3 Straightline distance l m 0.0064370277 cable length 466. There is virtually no cable sag error when the displacement cable has no appreciable "side loads" on it such as what exists in a space environment or when the cable is oriented parallel to the direction of gravity.00006705237348283 Cable sag h (12) 384 Cable length 0. The easy-to-use calculator above shows how displacement cable sag affects the accuracy of our position transducers.81 For these default inputs. Table 1: Derivation of the Catenary Curve Equation Proving the Calculator Now some test to prove our calculator above.28 meters)).00065617 Force perpendicular to cable length (acceleration of gravity) g m/s^2 9. cable sag does not produce any significant error unless the cable length is exceptionally long (over 60 feet (18." • The curve is also called the Alysoid and Chainette. The calculator displays the cable sag in absolute units as well as a percentage of total cable length ("measurement error"). Other catenary facts: • Jungius disproved Galileo's claim that the curve of a chain hanging under gravity would be a parabola in 1669. The length of the cable is the catenary length from point -l/2 to point l/2 (formula 14).5 Cable mass per unit length kg/m 0.053610426439519 a (7) 593 0.50000002397877673 (14) S 999 Because the mass of the cable per unit length is so small and the cable tension is relatively high.

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