Thermal load is one of the most important design conditions that should be considered carefully in engineering practice. Most inner-pressure vessels suffer thermo-mechanical ratcheting or unacceptable plastic deformation under cyclic thermal stress produced by inside heat source and pressure-induced primary stress. However, thermal load is also a crucial factor for external-pressure vessels where the failure model of buckling should not be ignored. The effect of thermal load on buckling is not only thermal stress itself but also shape distortion due to thermal load. In some cases, the latter is more important. In this paper, an external-pressure thin-walled ellipsoidal head with heating jackets has been studied. The temperature of this structure is uniformly distributed along the thickness direction but changes alternately between hot and cold along the meridional direction, which will have a significant effect on buckling behavior of this typical structure. Buckling load is sensitive to initial defect and small deformation. Several comparative calculations based on nonlinear buckling analysis have been conducted and some laws are established. Finally, some useful conclusions and suggestions are proposed for engineering design.

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