The National Science Foundation awarded a team of researchers led by the University of Nevada, Reno $1.42 million over four years to study the effect of earthquakes on bridges.
While bridges today are safer than bridges of the past, they are still vulnerable to unpredictable earthquake forces, says David Sanders, principal investigator of the research team and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at UNR.
"An earthquake can impact a bridge in many different ways including ones that cause twist and vertical acceleration," Sanders says. "Today's design and analysis tools are not at the level to handle the interaction of bending, twist and vertical motions on a bridge column."
This study seeks to learn more about the complex loading that can occur during an earthquake and translate the findings into recommendations for new bridge designs.
The University of California, Los Angeles, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, University of Missouri, Rolla, and Washington University, St. Louis, will partner with UNR to analyze bridges and bridge columns, conduct experimental testing and develop educational modules.
In addition, the research will be coordinated with work being conducted at the Instituto de Ingenieria in Mexico City and at the Hyogo Earthquake Engineering Research Center in Miki, Japan.
The educational modules will be developed for teachers and professors and can be used in summer camps, elementary, middle and high schools, undergraduate and graduate courses and continuing education courses.
The grant was awarded through the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation. More than 100 proposals were submitted, and the project was second largest among 12 grants awarded by NSF. The grant establishes the Combined Actions on Bridge Earthquake Response Team.
The UNR earthquake engineering program is one of the top 10 in the United States and recognized worldwide.
The $20 million James E. Rogers and Louis Wiener Jr. Large-Scale Structures Laboratory at the university is one of the nation's premier research facilities for simulating very large earthquakes. The 9,000-square-foot laboratory boasts the only set of three, 50-ton earthquake shake tables in the nation.