Reliability-based design optimization of structures using complex-step approximation with sensitivity analysis

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10 Scopus citations


Structural optimization aims to achieve a structural design that provides the best performance while satisfying the given design constraints. When uncertainties in design and conditions are taken into account, reliability-based design optimization (RBDO) is adopted to identify solutions with acceptable failure probabilities. This paper outlines a method for sensitivity analysis, reliability assessment, and RBDO for structures. Complex-step (CS) approximation and the first-order reliability method (FORM) are unified in the sensitivity analysis of a probabilistic constraint, which streamlines the setup of optimization problems and enhances their implementation in RBDO. Com-plex-step approximation utilizes an imaginary number as a step size to compute the first derivative without subtractive cancellations in the formula, which have been observed to significantly affect the accuracy of calculations in finite difference methods. Thus, the proposed method can select a very small step size for the first derivative to minimize truncation errors, while achieving accuracy within the machine precision. This approach integrates complex-step approximation into the FORM to compute sensitivity and assess reliability. The proposed method of RBDO is tested on structural optimization problems across a range of statistical variations, demonstrating that performance ben-efits can be achieved while satisfying precise probabilistic constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4708
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2 2021


  • Complex-step approximation
  • Reliability-based design optimization
  • Sensitivity analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Instrumentation
  • General Engineering
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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