Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Anil K Bajaj

Second Advisor

Patricia Davies

Committee Member 1

Eric Nauman

Committee Member 2

Amit Varma


A car seat is an important component of today's cars, which directly affects ride comfort experienced by occupants. Currently, the process of ride comfort evaluation is subjective. Alternatively, the ride comfort can be evaluated by a series of objective metrics in the dynamic response of the occupant. From previous studies it is well known that the dynamic behavior of a seat-occupant system is greatly affected by soft nonlinear viscoelastic materials used in the seat cushion. Therefore, in this research, especial attention was given to efficiently modeling the behavior of seat cushion. In the first part of this research, a phenomenological nonlinear viscoelastic foam model was proposed and its ability to capture uniaxial behavior of foam was investigated. The model is based on the assumption that the total stress can be decomposed into the sum of a nonlinear elastic component, modeled by a higher order polynomial of strain, and a nonlinear hereditary type viscoelastic component. System identification procedures were developed to estimate the model parameters using uniaxial cyclic compression data from experiments conducted at different rates on two types of low density polyurethane foams and three types of high density CONFOR foams. The performance of the proposed model was compared to that of other traditional continuum models. For each foam type, it was observed that lower order models are sufficient to describe the uniaxial behavior of the foam compressed at different rates. Although, the estimated model parameters were functions of the input strain rate. Alternatively, higher order comprehensive models, with strain independent parameters, were estimated as well. The estimated comprehensive model predicts foam responses under different compression rates. Also, a methodology was proposed to predict the stress-response of a layered foam system using the estimated models of each foam in the layers. Next, the estimated foam model was incorporated into a single-degree of freedom foam-mass model which is also the simplest model of seat-occupant systems. The steady-state response of the system when it is subjected to harmonic base excitation was studied using the incremental harmonic balance method. The incremental harmonic balance method was used to reduce the time required to generate the steady-state response of the system. The incremental