Tech researchers on earthquake team
By Liz Crumbley
Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 17 - January 22, 1998
Virginia Tech researchers are part of a national team that has received a five-year, $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the application of advanced and emerging technologies to minimize earthquake damage and losses in the U.S.
The Tech researchers are working with earthquake experts from seven other universities. They comprise the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (NCEER), established by the NSF in 1986 and hosted by the State University of New York at Buffalo. The current $10 million grant brings funding for the NCEER to a total of $56 million.
Virginia Tech engineering professors Daniel J. Inman, James K. Mitchell and Mahendra P. Singh will study applications of advanced technologies for preventing damage during earthquakes to critical facilities such as hospitals.
Inman and Singh will examine methods of retrofitting buildings so that they can better withstand damage. Inman will investigate the use of smart materials systems in retrofitting buildings to withstand earthquake damage. He also will study the design of monitoring systems that can detect and assess post-earthquake damage.
Singh will investigate the susceptibility to damage of non-structural components of critical facilities. Singh's research will include a study of cost-effective methods of retrofitting facilities to withstand earthquake damage.
Mitchell's research will concentrate on the geotechnical aspects of earthquake damage reduction. Mitchell and engineers at Cornell and Rensselaer will study the use of soil-strengthening techniques such as grouting and deep densification to help prevent earthquake-induced liquefaction and lateral spreading of the ground. They will employ two strategies in their research: modifying the soil around and beneath existing buildings to decrease soil and structural deformations, and isolating a building from the surrounding ground to reduce earthquake-induced forces.
James McGrath, a Virginia Tech chemistry professor, also will participate in the NCEER project. He will review advanced materials for earthquake applications and, along with Singh, will serve on the NCEER's advisory board.
Among their numerous activities during the past 11 years, NCEER researchers have retrofitted several large buildings in earthquake-prone areas of California, and have played major roles in reconnaissance efforts following earthquakes in San Francisco and Northridge, California, and in Kobe, Japan.
The other NCEER participants are Cornell University, University of Delaware, University of Nevada at Reno, University of Pennsylvania, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Southern California. The NCEER is one of a consortium of three national centers that also includes the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley and the Mid-America Earthquake Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.