ARLINGTON - Engineers
and scientists are certain that another big earthquake will hit California. They
just don’t know when and where it will be.
University of Minnesota Mutli-Axial Subassemblage Testing Laboratory
In the meantime, those researchers are creating better materials that will
strengthen future buildings and more sophisticated instruments to measure and evaluate
damage after the big one.
“Simon” Chao, an assistant civil engineering
professor at The University of Texas at Arlington, is the principal
investigator for an engineering team that has landed a three-year, $1 million
grant from the National Science Foundation to study earthquake survivability
and make buildings more durable.
team will do the lion’s share of its research, which begins this month, at the
University of Minnesota’s Multi-Axial Subassemblage Testing Laboratory. The lab
features a full-scale testing facility that can shake reinforced concrete beams
and columns until they collapse.
testing facility there can simulate an earthquake shaking to structural
components,” Chao said. “It can take a full-scale reinforced concrete member
and shake it as violently as a real earthquake would.”
test data also will be used for advanced computer modeling by his team member,
from California State University Chico,
to predict the seismic behavior of real buildings under extreme earthquakes.
NSF grant is awarded through the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake
Engineering Simulation program that the NSF started several years ago. NEES is
a network of 14 large-scale, experimental sites that feature advanced research
tools. All are linked to a centralized data pool and earthquake simulation
software, bridged together over high-speed Internet connections.
don’t know exactly how a building will react if it experiences a really big
earthquake like the one we’re predicting will hit West Coast soon,” Chao said.
“Our research will tell us if reinforced concrete buildings could survive when
subjected to this extreme earthquake.”
said another part of the research will use high performance steel fibers to
replace most rebar in concrete. Chao’s argues such fibers makes construction
material much more ductile and less likely to sustain damage.
Chao’s team won the NSF grant after
testing their theories on a small scale a few years ago.
also want to show how sustainable this new building material could be, how long
it might last,” said Chao, who said he expects the American Concrete Industry
to accept the team’s findings and require the construction industry to use
said the findings could reset the insurance industry as well. Premiums generally
are high in geographic areas where earthquakes are likely to occur. Chao said the
reinforced concrete and earthquake survivability data could provide insurance
companies with enough predictability that they would lower premiums.
member of Chao’s team, John Popovics, has built sensors that can look at the inside of a
damaged building to determine what needs to be done to mend it following an
team includes Haselton, Arturo Schultz of the University of Minnesota Popovics from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
work is representative of the research under way at The University of Texas at
Arlington, a comprehensive undergraduate and graduate institution of nearly
33,000 students in the heart of North Texas.
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