Monday, March 19, 2012

Engineering Smart Embankments and Other Earthwork

OU College of Engineering Researchers to Receive National Award

NORMAN, Okla. – University of Oklahoma College of Engineering researchers are being recognized for their research in the field of civil engineering, specifically how a new generation of polymeric products used in geotechnical projects (called Sensor-Enabled Geosynthetics, or SEG) could help monitor deformations in such earthen structures as embankments and retaining walls as they happen.

Kianoosh Hatami, Brian P. Grady and Matthew C. Ulmer will accept the Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award in March at the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Geo-Institute annual conference in Oakland, Calif. The award recognizes peer-reviewed, technical papers worthy of special commendation of merit as a contribution to the field of geotechnical engineering.

“Landslides and slope failures along roads, highways, and other public and private properties in the United States cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. An important element in monitoring structures is to keep track of deformations over their service life and during extreme events such as earthquakes,” Hatami said. “Our research would allow engineers to detect unacceptable deformations and decide when to retrofit or repair earthen structures before they have moved so much they could collapse.

“As we continue tests in our labs and work with our industrial partners to improve the accuracy and reliability of SEG materials, the construction industry as well as the designers and owners of different infrastructure projects will have an increased interest in using these SEG products for health-monitoring of roads, bridges, retaining walls, and highway slopes and embankments, among many other applications,” he added.

The team began their research with a competitive seed-funding award from the OU College of Engineering in 2006 and is now funded through the National Science Foundation and the OU Office of the Vice President of Research’s Faculty Challenge Grant award to move forward into the research and development phase, improving accuracy and reliability of the data as well as fabrication techniques. Hatami and Grady also were awarded a U.S. patent on the SEG technology last summer.

Student researchers on the team also have been recognized for their contributions. In addition to Ulmer, who is a recipient of the Middlebrooks Award, Atefeh Fathi, who recently graduated with her master of science degree in civil engineering, won the top prize for the student poster competition at the Geo-Frontiers 2011 conference in Dallas.

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