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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Rensselaer Joins 14 U.S. Universities To Form Earthquake Engineering Consortium

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November 15, 2004

Rensselaer Joins 14 U.S. Universities To Form Earthquake Engineering Consortium

 TROY, N.Y. — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute joined 14 other universities in the U.S. today to mark the formation of the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The consortium of research centers is 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 model-based simulation.

Rensselaer kicked off the completion of its facility upgrade and the beginning of this new phase of the research partnership by hosting a tour of its facility — the Geotechnical Centrifuge Research Center — located in the J. Erik Jonsson Engineering Center.

Rensselaer’s facilities include an upgraded geotechnical centrifuge, several labs, as well as a state-of-the-art computer operations center and teleconferencing room where the consortium will interact in real-time and perform integrated research via the NEES network called the NEESgrid.  The facility upgrades were funded through NSF grants totaling more than $3 million. Rensselaer will receive an additional $4.5 million in NSF funding over the next five years to support operations and shared use of the facility. Rensselaer invested $150,000 for renovations of the center and has committed an additional $500,000 over the next 10 years for operational expenses.

“Rensselaer will be a node on the NEESgrid, sharing resources with other sites while participating in remote observation, and even remote operation, of experiments.  The collaborative research will help lead to better, safer, and more economical designs for our country’s infrastructure, while creating a national resource for earthquake research and education,” said Ricardo Dobry, director of the Geotechnical Centrifuge Research Center and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rensselaer.

Rensselaer’s key piece of earthquake engineering equipment is its 150 g-ton geotechnical centrifuge. Researchers use the centrifuge for physical earthquake response simulation of soil and soil-structure systems such as earth dams, embankments, foundations of buildings and bridges, buried pipes, and retaining walls. The centrifuge spins small-scale models of these systems to produce a force of up to 200 times the earth’s gravitational pull, mimicking the stresses present in the actual large-scale constructed systems with dimensions 50 to 100 times larger. The centrifuge is equipped with an in-flight robot designed to conduct operations, like construction, while the centrifuge is in motion. Models can be subjected to extreme events, including failures — conditions practically impossible to duplicate with full-scale structures, according to Dobry.

Applications for Rensselaer’s earthquake research include the development of seismic code requirements and seismic guidelines for buildings, bridges, and other structures, said Dobry.

In addition to Dobry, key faculty associated with Rensselaer’s Geotechnical Centrifuge Research Center include Tarek Abdoun, associate director of the Geotechnical Centrifuge Research Center and assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rensselaer; Mourad Zeghal, assistant professor of  civil and environmental engineering at Rensselaer; and Thomas Zimmie, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rensselaer. Other faculty associated with Rensselaer’s NEES operation and NEES-related research are Michael O’Rourke, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Michael Symans, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Rensselaer’s partners showcased their work today at a national briefing held at NSF headquarters in Arlington, Va., marking the beginning of operational funding for the NEES project, which runs through 2014.

About NEES
NEES is a national, networked, simulation resource that includes geographically distributed, shared-use, next-generation experimental research equipment sites built and operated to advance earthquake engineering research and education through collaborative and integrated experimentation, theory, data archiving, and model-based simulation. The goal of NEES is to accelerate progress in earthquake engineering research and to improve the seismic design and performance of civil and mechanical infrastructure systems through the integration of people, ideas, and tools in a collaborative environment. Open access to and use of NEES research facilities and data by all elements of the earthquake engineering community is a key element of this goal. The NEES Consortium manages NEES as a national shared-use research facility for the earthquake engineering community.

Contact: Mary Cimo
Phone: (518) 687-7174