July 25, 2008

National Science Foundation Grant Will Fund State-of the-Art Engineering Facility

Multidisciplinary structure will be used to study soil-structure interaction and stability

A major grant from the National Science Foundation will allow the civil and environmental engineering department to purchase state-of-the-art equipment to build an interdisciplinary facility on campus for studying soil-structure interaction.

According to project leader Muhannad Suleiman, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, when it is completed the structure may be the first of its kind in the United States.

The facility, which will be housed within the geotechnical, structural, and soil-structure interaction laboratories in Acopian Engineering Center, is estimated to take 36 months to complete. The $222,487 grant will be distributed over the next three years beginning this September and ending in August of 2011. However, the facility should be able to support initial experimental studies within the next 12 to 18 months.

“Soil-structure interaction significantly affects the nation’s infrastructure including bridges, underground structures, retaining systems, tunnels, and offshore platforms,” explains Suleiman. “SSI is one of the major challenges that faces the civil engineering community, partly because SSI requires multidisciplinary research efforts and partly because of the lack of advanced sensors specifically designed for research purposes. The focus for this facility is on acquiring advanced instrumentation and sensors in order to better understand SSI.”

Co-principal investigators working with Suleiman are Mary Roth, Simon Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Anne Raich and Stephen Kurtz, both assistant professors of civil and environmental engineering.

“The [faculty] is committed to involving undergraduate students in this research,” says Suleiman. “Furthermore, the research team will develop new upper-level undergraduate elective courses that focus on design, analysis, instrumentation, and measurements of SSI systems.”

The facility will also be equipped with video conferencing and web broadcasting capabilities allowing faculty and students from other institutions to use the facility for research and teaching purposes. Six institutions have already expressed interest in using the facility including: Rutgers University, Iowa State University, West Virginia Institute of Technology, Clemson University, Texas A & M University, and Villanova University.

Proposed research projects that will take place at the facility include: understanding mechanisms and differences in soil-structure interaction of deep foundations; behavior design of pile-supported embankments; the behavior of underground pipes and effects of installation techniques, and the use of pervious pavements.

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