Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Robert A. Canfield, PhD


There are many uses of low pressure airbags, both military and commercial. Many of these applications have been hampered by inadequate and inaccurate modeling tools. This dissertation contains the derivation of a four degree-of-freedom system of differential equations from physical laws of mass and energy conservation, force equilibrium, and the Ideal Gas Law. Kinematic equations were derived to model a cylindrical airbag as a single control volume impacted by a parallelepiped collidant. An efficient numerical procedure was devised to solve the simplified system of equations in a manner amenable to discovering design trends. The largest public airbag experiment, both in scale and scope, was designed and built to collect data on low-pressure airbag responses, otherwise unavailable in the literature. The experimental results were compared to computational simulations to validate the simplified numerical model. Experimental response trends are presented that will aid airbag designers. The two objectives of using a low pressure airbag to demonstrate the feasibility to 1) accelerate a munition to 15 feet per second velocity from a bomb bay, and 2) decelerate humans hitting trucks below the human tolerance level of 50 G's, were both met.

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