Rensselaer Partners With Cornell To Test Effects of Earthquakes on Critical Pipeline Systems
Rensselaer is partnering with Cornell University to test the
effects of earthquakes on underground pipeline systems used for
water, electric power, gas and liquid fuel, telecommunications,
transportation, and waste. The four-year project is funded by a
$2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) Network for
Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) research grant.
Cornell University is leading the project, with Rensselaer’s
portion of the grant totaling $746,822.
Through the use of physical modeling and simulation, the
research team will test welded steel pipe and polyethylene pipe
to improve the safety and reliability of critical underground
infrastructure by improving future design and construction
methods, according to Michael O’Rourke, professor of civil and
environmental engineering at Rensselaer and co-principal
investigator on the critical lifelines research team.
Additional Rensselaer researchers on the team include civil and
environmental engineering faculty members Tarek Abdoun,
assistant professor, and Michael Symans, associate
Rensselaer researchers will conduct small-scale earthquake
simulation tests in the Institute’s recently renovated 150
g-ton geotechnical centrifuge, spinning models of buried pipe
systems to produce forces up to 200 times the Earth’s
gravitational pull. The centrifuge mimics the stresses present
in actual large-scale constructed systems and is equipped with
an in-flight robot designed to conduct operations while the
centrifuge is in motion.
Researchers at Cornell University will perform a limited
number of near full-scale tests using Cornell’s Large
Displacement Soil-Structure Interaction Facility for Lifeline
Systems and then compare their results with those obtained from
a larger number of small-scale centrifuge tests at Rensselaer.
Researchers at Rensselaer also will develop computer-based
numerical models and conduct advanced numerical simulations to
benchmark results from the near full-scale and small-scale
physical tests. The verified numerical models will allow
engineers to readily evaluate the adequacy of future designs
without conducting laboratory testing.
In addition to the impact of earthquakes on critical
underground infrastructures, the results can also be used to
better understand the effects of landslides, mining, extraction
of subsurface fluids, and underground construction on these
systems, according to O’Rourke.
Cornell and Rensselaer are also using a portion of the grant
to develop an innovative outreach program with the Sciencenter,
located in Ithaca, N.Y., by creating an interactive science
museum exhibit to introduce K-12 students to earthquake
Rensselaer is one of 15 universities in the U.S. that comprise
NSF-NEES, a consortium of research centers connected via a
high-performance Internet network designed to shift the
emphasis of earthquake engineering research and education from
traditional physical testing to integrated experimentation and
Read the press release