Distinctive Facilities: Geotechnical Centrifuge Laboratory

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Spotlight on Research

Photo Credit: Glen Asakawa

Physical modeling in geotechnical engineering involves complex interdisciplinary challenges, many of which arise from the need to visualize coupled phenomena using sensors embedded in the soil or using digital photography. Often, simplifications must be made to focus on the most important mechanism occurring in the real-world scenario. A multidisciplinary team of centrifuge engineers at CU-Boulder is tackling these unique challenges in the Geotechnical Centrifuge Laboratory inside the basement of the Engineering Center, with specialties in geotechnical physical modeling (Min Zhang), mechanical engineering (Derek Carpenter), and electrical engineering (Greg Miller). The centrifuge engineers ensure that this unique facility is used safely and efficiently by a large number of users, which include researchers from universities around the world.

Recently, John McCartney (CEAE) used the centrifuge to evaluate the thermo-mechanical behavior of drilled shaft foundations used as geothermal heat exchangers, and to evaluate the response of foundations for offshore structures to cyclic lateral loading. A current collaborative project sponsored by the Office of Naval Research MURI program is led by Ron Pak (CEAE) and Richard Regueiro (CEAE) and focuses on evaluating the effects of buried explosives. Shideh Dashti (CEAE) and Abbie Liel (CEAE) are also using the centrifuge in a project funded by the National Science Foundation, to study the seismic performance of inelastic structures on liquefiable sand and the effectiveness of remediation strategies. The team is using a one-dimensional, servo-hydraulic shaking table to apply earthquake motions to small-scale soil-structure models under increased gravity.

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