The measurement and correct modelling of damping is of crucial importance in the prediction of the dynamical performance of systems for a wide range of engineering applications. In most cases, however, the experimental methods used to measure damping coefficients are extremely basic and, in general, poorly reported. This paper shows that damping is a deceptive parameter which is prone to subtle nonlinear distortion which often appears to satisfy general linear criteria. An efficient experimental method which provides for the measurement of both the linear and nonlinear damping for a single-degree-of-freedom system is proposed. The results from a numerical simulation study of a model with “drag” type quadratic damping are shown to give reliable estimates of parameters of the system when both random and impulse excitation techniques are used.

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