The Energy-Momentum Method for the Stability of Nonholonomic Systems

Zenkov, D. V., A. M. Bloch and J. E. Marsden

Dyn. Stab. of Systems, 13, 123-166


In this paper we analyze the stability of relative equilibria of nonholonomic systems (that is, mechanical systems with nonintegrable constraints such as rolling constraints). In the absence of external dissipation, such systems conserve energy, but nonetheless can exhibit both neutrally stable and asymptotically stable, as well as linearly unstable relative equilibria. To carry out the stability analysis, we use a generalization of the energy-momentum method combined with the Lyapunov-Malkin theorem and the center manifold theorem. While this approach is consistent with the energy-momentum method for holonomic systems, it extends it in substantial ways. The theory is illustrated with several examples, including the the rolling disk, the roller racer, and the rattleback top.