motion of continuum


Let be a body embedded in an Euclidean vector space (3,) and let χ be a smooth homeomorphismMathworldPlanetmath describing a family of mappings


such that every material particle P is carried over a place11This very convenient term was introduced by Lodge[1]x of the space in the course of time, i.e.


These mappings are called configurationsMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath, the body being represented as a continuumMathworldPlanetmath in the Euclidean space. Such a description we shall call it motion of continuum.

Choose an arbitrary system of coordinatesMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmath. Fix any particle P. At any instant t whatever, once the motion it has took place, for 𝐱 we define

𝐱=χ(P,t), (1)
𝐯=𝐱˙=ddtχ(P,t), (2)
𝐚=𝐱¨=d2dt2χ(P,t). (3)

In the course of motion, sometimes it is important to consider any previous instant τ,t0τt,  where t0 is the initial instant and t the “present” one. Hence, we may restate Eqs. (1)-(3) substituting t by τ and so they may be refered to as histories of position, velocity and acceleration, respectively. Also it is usual to denote those equations with the more compact notation 𝐱=𝐱(t), 𝐯=𝐯(t) and 𝐚=𝐚(t), as τ=t. It is important to notice that such equations do not give us a completePlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath description of motion, because they say not the manner about how to identify every and each of the particles conforming the body. So, in order to get that complete identification, we shall now introduce the material and spatial descriptions of continuum.

Material description of motion.

Let P an arbitrary point of the body indentified by its material coordinates Xi with respect to a cartesian rectangular system arbitrarily chocen. Those coordinates “map”each point of the body in certain configuration of reference in the same way that spatial coordinates xi provide a scheme 22Cf.   CFT,   pp.507,508 [2] of a region of the space. Since the body adopts distinct configurations through the motion 𝐱(t), we need to precise the concept of reference configuration. So, we shall call a reference configuration to the homeomorphism mapping ϰ given by

𝐗=ϰ(P),P=ϰ-1(𝐗), (4)

where 𝐗 is the point of material coordinates Xi identifying any particle P in the considered configuration. Such a representation satisfy two necessary requisites: first, a distinction between the motion 𝐱(τ) and its material description at the considered reference configuration χϰ and second, invariance under a change of reference configuration, so being well-defined the motion of continuum, through a material description. In fact, from Eq.(1) and Eq.(4) with t=τ, we get

𝐱(τ)=χ(P,τ)=χ(ϰ-1(𝐗),τ)χϰ(𝐗,τ). (5)

Furthermore, if ϰ¯ represents another reference configuration (i.e. another system of coordinates X¯i), then from Eq.(4), 𝐗¯=ϰ¯(P),   P=ϰ¯-1(𝐗¯), and so from Eq.(5), 𝐱(τ)=χϰ¯(𝐗¯,τ). Since we are speaking about the same motion at some τ[t0,t], we have

𝐱(τ)=χϰ(𝐗,τ)=χϰ¯(𝐗¯,τ), (6)

so showing the required invariance. That equation indeed represents a transformationMathworldPlanetmath of mappings under changes of reference configuration, therefore we conclude that an invariance condition indicating changes of representation, leads to a transformation relationMathworldPlanetmath. In those cases where the configuration is intended, we shall write

𝐱(τ)=χ(𝐗,τ), (7)
𝐯(τ)=𝐱˙(𝐗,τ), (8)
𝐚(τ)=𝐱¨(𝐗,τ). (9)

Since χ and its inversePlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath χ-1 are injectivePlanetmathPlanetmath and differentiableMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmath, we get as a corollary the principle of impenetrability:


That principle implies that the JacobianMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmath of the transformation between material and spatial coordinates it must be positive i.e.,


what means that (from dv=JdV) a volume element cannot be reduced into a point once the deformation takes place.

Spatial description of motion.

In a spatial description of motion, we do not relate directly to particles but uniquely to their velocities.33The velocity was introduced as a primitivePlanetmathPlanetmath concept by D’Alembert[3]So we shall deal with the field of particle velocities 𝐯(𝐱,t), 𝐱, because the “history” about a specific particle 𝐗 is not needed. Such a description is a suitable choice in fluid mechanics, for instance. The distinction between material and spatial descriptions is quite basic: in the former 𝐱 is the dependent variable, and 𝐗,t the independent variables, whereas in the latter 𝐯 is the dependent variable, and 𝐱,t the independent ones. Let us define the time material derivative or the material rate Dt44a notation introduced by Stokes[4] like which it is found by an “observer” moving with a particle X, i.e., with material coordinates Xi held constant. Likewise, the local rate t is found by an “observer” situated at a fixed point 𝐱, i.e., spatial coordinates xi held constant. Therefore, from those definitions we get


Thus, we may find out the aceleration field 𝐚(𝐱,t) by calculating the material rate of the velocity field 𝐯(𝐱,t),

𝐯=𝐯(𝐱,t),𝐚(𝐱,t)𝐯˙=t𝐯+(𝐯)𝐯, (10)

by application of the chain ruleMathworldPlanetmath, and where 𝐯=𝐱˙(𝐱,t) by definition. We can also to express Eq.(10) in a rectangular cartesian system,

vi=x˙i(xk,t),ai=v˙i(xk,t)=tvi+vjvi,j, (11)

where we have used the conventional index summation. Eqs.(10)-(11) correspond to the spatial description of motion. In fluid mechanics languagePlanetmathPlanetmath, the term (𝐯)𝐯 or equivalently, vjvi,j, is called the convected rate because the particle-bound “observer” moves, by virtue of its instantaneous velocity 𝐯, into regions of different local field values. Furthermore, we call a steady field if the local rate vanishes and a uniform field if the convected rate vanishes.

Some applications.

In continuum mechanics there are two classical field theories: elasticity theory and hydrodymamics.Continuum kinematics it is largely determined by the kind of mechanical response (the cause being, any field forces or impulses solicitation) that is being described. Although we can use in those theories either of the descriptions of motion, from the point of view of mechanical response alone the material description comes to be adequate for elasticity theory, whereas the spatial description (velocity field) is the natural way for hydrodynamics. Basically, a deformable solid possesses a “kind of memory” from an initial undistorsioned configuration 0, so it becomes necessary to somehow “label” the body particles at that undistorsioned initial configuration. Thus, material coordinates Xi it will be a suitable way in order to make the proper description of the solid in the subsequent distorsioned configurations. On the other hand, a viscous fluid (liquid, gas or plasm) presents a completely different mechanical behavior because its response is determined solely by the instantaneous values of the time rates of deformation. So in general, viscous fluids have no memory at all, not existing past configurations that are special in any way. For that reason, it is natural to use spatial description for viscous fluids.

As an illustration, we shall do a briefly discussion on finite strain in elasticity theory and on rate of deformation which corresponds to hydrodynamics (viscous fluids) kinematics.

1. Finite strain.     We define particle displacement 𝐮, as the difference between, the position 𝐱 of an arbitrary particle of the deformable solid in any distorsioned configuration, and the position 𝐗0 of the same particle in the initial undistorsioned configuration of the body, both with respect to a rectangular cartesian system arbitrarily chosen. That is,


We apply now the operator 𝐗 (respect to material particle 𝐗), to obtain


where, 𝐗𝐗=𝟏 is the unit tensor. By taking the transposeMathworldPlanetmath, we have


Next we consider the square line element


where 𝐂 is the Cauchy-Green deformation tensor[5]. Finally, we define the finite strain as


in which, by replacing 𝐂, we get


or equivalently,


a symmetricMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath cartesian tensor of second orderPlanetmathPlanetmath(subscript comma denoting differentiationMathworldPlanetmath).

The theory of finite strain is the creation of Cauchy[6],[7].

2. Rate of deformation. Let Xα be material coordinates describing particles at the sine of a viscous fluid, and let x˙i(xk(Xα,t),t) be the velocity field who is tangentPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath to the fluid flow streamlines crossing the region of the space. Since the material derivatives dXα¯˙=0 and x,αi¯˙=x˙,αi, we have (by applying the chain rule)

dxi¯˙=x,αidXα¯˙=x˙,αidXα=x˙,jix,αjdXα=x˙,jidxj.  (a)

We find now the material rate of x,βiX,jβ=δji and then we multiply by X,iα, to obtain


Next we evaluate the material derivative of a square line element, with metric tensorMathworldPlanetmath gij 55If the spatial coordinate system be instantaneously stationary, then tgij=0. Furthermore, since the components of the metric tensor are constant in orthogonalMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath cartesian coordinatesMathworldPlanetmath the corresponding Christoffel symbolsMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmath are zero, and the covariant derivatives of the metric tensor vanish in all coordinate systemsMathworldPlanetmath. That is, δji|k=gij|k=0. Therefore, we have g˙ij=tgij+gij|kx˙k=0. located in ,


whence, by Eq.(a), we arrive to the Beltrami equation[8]


where dij is a symmetric tensorMathworldPlanetmath of second order which represents the required rate of deformation.


  • 1 A.S. Lodge, On the use of convected coordinate systems in the mechanics of continuousMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmath media, Proc. Cambr. Phil. Soc. 𝟒𝟕, 575-584, 1951.
  • 2 C. Truesdell, R.A. Toupin, The Classical Field Theories Enc. of Physics, 𝐈𝐈𝐈/𝟏, Springer Verlag, New York, 1960.
  • 3 J. L. D’Alembert, Essai d’une Nouvelle Théorie de la Resistance des Fluides,, Paris, 1752.
  • 4 G.G. Stokes, On the theories of the internal friction of fluids in motion, and of the equilibrium and motion of elastic solids, Trans. Cambr. Phil. Soc. 𝟖 (1844-1849), 287-319 = papers 𝟏, 75-129, 1845.
  • 5 G. Green, On the propagation of light in crystallized media (1839), Trans. Cambr. Phil. Soc. 𝟕 (1839-1842), 121-140 = Papers, 293-311, 1841.
  • 6 A.-L. Cauchy Sur le condensation et la dilatation des corps solides, Ex. de Math. 𝟐 = Oeuvres (2) 𝟕, 82-83, 1827.
  • 7 A.-L. Cauchy Mémoire sur les dilatations, les condensations et les rotationsMathworldPlanetmath produits par un changement de forme dans un système de points materiéls, Ex. d’An. Phys. Math. 𝟐 = Oeuvres (2) 𝟏𝟐, 343-377, 1841.
  • 8 E. Beltrami, Sui principi fondamentali della idrodinamica, Mem. Acad. Sci. Bologna (3) 𝟏, 431-476, 𝟐 (1872), 381-437, 𝟑 (1873), 349-407, 𝟓 (1874), 443-484 = Richerche sulla cinematica dei fluidi, Opere 𝟐, 202-379, 1871.
Title motion of continuum
Canonical name MotionOfContinuum
Date of creation 2013-03-22 15:53:16
Last modified on 2013-03-22 15:53:16
Owner perucho (2192)
Last modified by perucho (2192)
Numerical id 15
Author perucho (2192)
Entry type Definition
Classification msc 53A45