Northern Nevada may not be famous for its earthquakes, but now the University of Nevada will be, at least, in the scientific community.
Four new shake tables make the lab the largest of its kind in the country. "It's a real honor to be in a situation where we have one of the best facilities in the world actually in terms of space, and in terms of capability," says civil engineering professor Saiid Saiidi.
The university's seismology lab now has four large shake tables weighing about 27 tons each, that work to simulate earthquakes. They can build structures on top of them and then program them to shake at the same magnitude and time span as earthquakes throughout history.
Saiidi says since we can't predict earthquakes, they are very difficult to study in the field. And that means that engineers have to make their best guesses when designing buildings that will withstand the shaking.
The lab makes it possible to be much more precise when building any structure, but particularly bridges. "The second best thing is to try to simulate those earthquakes as closely as we can in the lab, and study our models so we can come up with safer and more reliable bridges."
Since a lab like this is so rare the department has been able to get a lot of its funding from federal grants. That means it's not taking much from the university's overall budget.
Written by Arianna Bennett