The next time the New Madrid fault zone produces a strong earthquake, buildings in the Midwest may see less damage if they use a new device developed by a researcher at the University of Missouri-Rolla.
Dr. Genda Chen, associate professor of civil engineering at UMR, has spent the past five years developing a “smart” damper that can adapt to external disturbances such as earthquakes and keep buildings from shaking as much. His most recent findings are included in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Structural Control and Health Monitoring, available Sept. 12. Earlier findings were reported in the March 2004 issue of the International Journal of Structural Engineering and Mechanics and the April 2004 issue of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Journal of Engineering Mechanics.
Chen’s damper operates much like the brakes of an automobile. “When you drive and go too fast, you press the brake to slow down a little bit,” Chen explains. “Then you release the brake so you can keep your speed in a comfortable range. We’re using the same concept for a building. If, during an earthquake, the building shakes too much, we would like to brake it using a friction device.”
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