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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 16, 2010

110-foot concrete bridge withstands 8.0 earthquake simulation in lab

RENO, Nev. – After a succession of eight separate earthquake simulations, a 110-foot long, 200-ton concrete bridge model at the University of Nevada, Reno withstood a powerful jolting, three times the acceleration of the disastrous 1994 magnitude 6.9 Northridge, Calif. earthquake, and survived in good condition.

Third experiment in University of Nevada, Reno series uses innovative materials and construction. Photo by Mike Wolterbeek.

“This is very satisfying to see how well the design and components worked,” Saiid Saiidi, principal investigator for the project and University of Nevada civil engineering professor said after the final test on this bridge Tuesday afternoon. “We estimated bridge failure at 8 inches of deflection, which is a lot, but we had 10 inches of deflection in the support columns and the bridge remained standing and usable, even with considerable internal stresses.”

The bridge model is shaken with bidirectional forces to realistically simulate an earthquake. The researchers mimic the Northridge earthquake using recorded data of the actual earthquake. Computer programs direct the movements of the three large hydraulically-controlled shake tables in the University’s world-renowned, large-scale structures laboratory.

“We know the bridge would have survived that quake in good condition and still be usable,” Saiidi said.

The University of Nevada research team is experimenting with and testing a number of materials and innovations to potentially revolutionize seismic design of future bridges to help protect lives, prevent damage and avoid bridge closure even when there is a strong earthquake.

See the bridge shake, rattle and roll.

“We anticipate these designs and components would be used in future bridge and overpass construction,” Saiidi said.

The11-foot-high, four-span concrete bridge model was the third experiment in a series of these tests using innovative composite materials and construction to give superior seismic performance for bridges and highway overpasses.

“What is extraordinary about the construction techniques tested with this bridge is the use of glass and carbon fibers to support the bridge, precast columns, segmental columns and special steel pipe-pin connections in a high seismic setting,” Saiidi said.

Three video views of the final test:
http://nees.unr.edu/projects/4span/4spandvr1run9t30.mov
http://nees.unr.edu/projects/4span/4spandvr2run9t30.mov
http://nees.unr.edu/projects/4span/4spandvr3run9t30.mov

The test was attended by about 50 engineers and industry representatives, including Caltrans chief of earthquake engineering and several senior bridge engineers from Caltrans and NDOT. About 100 viewers from around the country observed the test live via the Web.

Interview with Principal Investigator Saiid Saiidi

The experiment is funded by a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation. It is part of a larger multi-university project within the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) research program. The Large-Scale Structures Laboratory is a member of NEES, established by the National Science Foundation in 2004. As a NEES Equipment Site, the laboratory is equipped with four, large-scale, high-performance shake tables; the only laboratory in the world of its kind.

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Photo cutline: The 200-ton, four-span bridge was built over several months atop the 14-foot square shake tables at the world-renowned University of Nevada, Reno large-structures lab. The innovative bridge was hit with nine increasingly more powerful earthquakes over several days, and survived, giving researchers reams of data collected from sensors through 350 channels. Photo by Mike Wolterbeek, University of Nevada, Reno.

Nevada’s land-grant university founded in 1874, the University of Nevada, Reno has an enrollment of nearly 17,000 students. The University is home to one the country’s largest study-abroad programs and the state’s medical school, and offers outreach and education programs in all Nevada counties. For more information, visit www.unr.edu.

Media Contact:
Mike Wolterbeek
Media Relations Officer
University Media Relations
University of Nevada, Reno/108
Reno, NV 89557
mwolterbeek@unr.edu
775.784.4547   phone
775.784.1422   fax

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