MECHANICS OF BUNGEE JUMPING

D. R. H. Jones        

Anales de la Mecánica de la Fractura, nº 21 . 2004 . Pág. -
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Resumen: The sport of bungee jumping has become very popular worldwide over the past decade. The author was recently commissioned to investigate a fatal accident, which occurred during a bungee jump. As a result of this investigation, it has emerged that the equipment used for bungee jumping has evolved in an empirical way, using a mixture of braided rubber rope originally intended for aeronautical applications, and ancillary equipment designed for climbing protection. Many sporting organisations and government agencies have established codes of practice for bungee jumping. However, these codes are essentially empirical, and are not based on a quantitative materials engineering analysis of the forces generated in the load train in relation to the strength of the components. The fatal accident is presented as a detailed case study, in which the load/extension characteristics of the bungee rope and the end attachment webbing are measured, and used as the critical inputs to an energy-based analysis of the complete jumping process. It is shown that the bungee rope was unable to absorb all the potential energy of the falling jumper, with the result that the jumper broke away from the bottom end of the rope. The paper also discusses the urgent need for a quantitative code for the design and use of bungee jumping equipment, based on rigorous materials engineering analysis.

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Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1PZ, Reino Unido