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Engineering innovative seismic retrofits that don’t break the bank

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Posted January 29, 2015

Researchers at the state-of-the-art Structural Engineering and Materials Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology are using a full-scale model building to test new ways to protect structures from earthquakes and potentially save lives.

In 2012, Costa Rica was pummeled by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, one of the strongest ever to hit the Central American nation. Without enough advance warning, natural disasters like this can be devastating. An NSF-funded team of international scientists lead by the University of South Florida has found a way to help better forecast the size of future disasters like this. The team found that subtle shifts in the Earth's offshore plates can be a harbinger of the size of earthquakes or tsunamis. The geological phenomenon called "slow slip events," identified just 15 years ago, is a useful tool in spotting the precursors for major earthquakes and resulting tsunamis. Slow slip events are caused by motion on faults but, unlike earthquakes, the events release their energy slowly, over weeks or months. These events can't be felt or even recorded by conventional seismographs. Find out more in this video. Credit: National Science Foundation

In 2012, Costa Rica was pummeled by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, one of the strongest ever to hit the Central American nation. Without enough advance warning, natural disasters like this can be devastating. An NSF-funded team of international scientists lead by the University of South Florida has found a way to help better forecast the size of future disasters like this. The team found that subtle shifts in the Earth’s offshore plates can be a harbinger of the size of earthquakes or tsunamis. The geological phenomenon called “slow slip events,” identified just 15 years ago, is a useful tool in spotting the precursors for major earthquakes and resulting tsunamis. Slow slip events are caused by motion on faults but, unlike earthquakes, the events release their energy slowly, over weeks or months. These events can’t be felt or even recorded by conventional seismographs. Find out more in this video. Credit: National Science Foundation

The three-story concrete building is based on designs common through much of the 20th century. It has been subjected to round after round of simulated temblors to test if materials such as carbon fiber or new shape-memory alloys can be used to reinforce the structure so it would remain standing in moderate to strong earthquakes.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), structural engineer Reginald DesRoches and his team have developed a series of retrofits of varying cost and intrusiveness to give building owners in quake-prone areas a range of choices for hardening their property.

Source: NSF

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