The large-amplitude response of perfect and imperfect, simply supported circular cylindrical shells to harmonic excitation in the spectral neighbourhood of some of the lowest natural frequencies is investigated. Donnell’s nonlinear shallow-shell theory is used and the solution is obtained by Galerkin method. Several expansions involving 16 or more natural modes of the shell are used. The boundary conditions on the radial displacement (simply supported shell at both ends) and the continuity of circumferential displacement are exactly satisfied. The effect of internal quiescent, incompressible and inviscid fluid is investigated. The nonlinear equations of motion are studied by using a code based on arclength continuation method. A series of accurate experiments on forced vibrations of an empty and water-filled stainless-steel shell have been performed. Several modes have been intensively investigated for different vibration amplitudes. A closed loop control of the force excitation has been used. The actual geometry of the test shell has been measured and the geometric imperfections have been introduced in the theoretical model. Several interesting nonlinear phenomena have been experimentally observed and numerically reproduced, as: softening-type nonlinearity, different types of travelling wave response in the proximity of resonances and amplitude-modulated response. For all the modes investigated, the theoretical and experimental results are in strong agreement.

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