Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Previously Published Works bannerUC San Diego

Areal moments of inertia revisited: on the distinction between the principal directions


Three commonly used methods to determine the principal moments of inertia of a plane area and their directions are based on: (i) the stationarity condition for the axial moment of inertia, (ii) the eigenvalue analysis, and (iii) Mohr’s circle. In this paper we provide two new derivations, which are based on: (a) the matrix diagonalization and the invariant tensor properties, and (b) the conjugacy property of the moment of inertia vectors. A new general expression is derived which specifies the principal directions of inertia, as well as the directions of the maximum and minimum product of inertia. A comparative study of the five presented approaches is given, which is of interest from both conceptual and methodological points of view. The connection between the deviatoric part of the moment of inertia tensor and Land’s circle of inertia is also given. The presented analysis applies to any two-by-two symmetric second order tensor.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View