Year of Publication


Document Type





Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Jack Leifer


Gossamer membranes are large, ultra light weight, highly flexible thin films. They have been proposed for use as elements in systems such as solar sails and optical apertures, whose large areas require a low-mass material that can be launched in a compact package and then deployed to operational configuration upon reaching orbit. Many of the proposed applications require that the film possess a flat, wrinkle-free surface. Surface wrinkle configuration is determined, in part, by the method used to support the film. One configuration that has not been studied in detail involves the formation of vertical wrinkles oriented along the direction of a tensile force applied at the upper and lower horizontal film supports. An experiment was designed to allow known forces to be applied to a 9 inch by 9 inch square sample of film supported at its upper and lower boundaries. Four films 7.6 m and 12.7 m thick samples of Kapton (polymide), and 12.2 m and 23.4 m thick samples of Mylar were loaded at levels of applied tensile force ranging from 1.446 to 4.388 N. The out-of-plane surface contours that resulted were measured using close-range photogrammetry, a non-contact, optical measurement technique. Experimental results indicate that both wrinkle wavelength and amplitude decrease as a function of applied force magnitude. These trends matched those obtained using numerical techniques, which also showed that lateral border strain, not measured during the experiment, may be a more important factor in determining surface wrinkle configuration. After presentation of the results, the photogrammetry technique is further considered as a tool for use in the manufacturing industry, in similar close-range applications, for the measurement of both dimensions and displacements.