Civil Engineering Faculty Receive NSF Grant For Earthquake Research

February 7, 2001

Civil engineering faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder have received a $1.98 million grant from the National Science Foundation as part of a national effort to improve experimental facilities for earthquake research.

The national effort also will create a collaborative network to speed the design of structures that minimize earthquake damage and loss of life.

The award is one of 11 announced under the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation. The awards, which total $45 million over four years, will fund construction, expansion and modernization of equipment at 10 universities and will include capabilities for remote observation and operation.

CU-Boulder Professors Benson Shing and Enrico Spacone received the grant to develop and install a large-scale laboratory experimentation station, called a Fast Hybrid Test System, which will enable researchers to test and validate more complex and comprehensive computer models.

The equipment will have remote operation capabilities via the Internet and will be located in the Engineering Center at CU-Boulder. The Engineering Center already is home to a 400 g-ton centrifuge used to simulate the effects of earthquakes and other forces on manmade structures.

"The new system will enhance our experimental capabilities by combining laboratory testing with computer simulation to allow the evaluation of large structural systems," said Shing, a member of CU's structural engineering group who has focused on earthquake engineering research for more than 15 years.

The Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation is a collaboration in the research community designed to improve the seismic design and performance of the U.S. civil and mechanical infrastructure. NSF plans to spend up to a total of $81.9 million by 2004 under NEES to enhance earthquake engineering research equipment in the United States and to build a high-performance Internet network to allow sharing of experimental facilities and data among researchers throughout the country and the world.

The NSF-funded equipment includes new and upgraded shake tables, centrifuges, a tsunami wave basin, large-scale laboratory experimentation systems and field experimentation and monitoring installations.

NSF hopes to grant a second set of equipment awards in the future. All equipment is expected to be operational by September 2004.

"The past decade has seen immense devastation from major earthquakes around the world," said Priscilla Nelson, NSF division director for civil and mechanical systems. "We can't control the destructive forces of nature. But this equipment can help us design and construct buildings, bridges and other structures that can better withstand those forces."

A six-month scoping study is already under way to define user requirements, hardware and software technologies and support infrastructure needed for the network. Eventually, a community-led consortium will be selected to manage and operate NEES for at least 10 years.

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