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It is demonstrated that inflatable structures can provide large amounts of stiffness compared to traditional structures of the same mass. A variety of inflatable structures are investigated theoretically. A pressurized lobed cylindrical wall is shown to be sufficiently lightweight and stiff that it can form a lighter-than-air vacuum chamber. Some prototype inflatables are built. Mechanical and optical tests are performed. Some applications in aerospace and solar energy which require large linear dimension, small mass, or large stiffness are discussed including electromagnetic space launch, airship buoyancy control, solar chimney power plants, and large inflatable mirrors.
A Dissertation Submitted to the Department of Physics in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
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