Bridge Models

A wide view of the 4-span test in the lab

Due to the complexity of structural performance during strong earthquakes and the highly nonlinear response of structural systems, computer simulations have to be verified with experimental data to establish their reliability. Calibration of computer simulation tools requires data on models that realistically represent not only structural components, but also the interaction among them and system response. The scale has to be sufficiently large to replicate both the macroscopic and microscopic structural response. This is particularly important for Performance-Based Design (PBD) in which localized damage can be the performance criterion.

While the research community has successfully studied different aspects of component behavior, it has not been able to experimentally evaluate the system behavior because of the lack of large-scale testing facilities, high capacity testing equipment, and the necessary information technology (IT) infrastructure.

The technical focus of this study is on three approximately quarter-scale test models of a series of four-span bridge frame supported on three biaxial shake tables at NEES@University of Nevada, Reno. The following models were tested:

  1. Conventional bridge, February 2007
  2. Bridge with advanced materials, December 2008
  3. Fiber reinforced polymer composite bridge, April to June 2010

All the objectives of the study will be addressed through the testing and performance evaluation of these bridge models.

The study consists of the following phases:

  • Preliminary analytical studies of the system prior to finalizing its design
  • Construction of the model
  • Instrumentation
  • Setting up the model
  • Shake table simulations
  • Data collection
  • Data processing and reduction
  • Interpretation and evaluation of the response

Concurrent with all these tasks there will be considerable interaction with several other universities that will be directly and indirectly involved in the University of Nevada, Reno part of the research. Bridge abutment studies, as a part of this project, will be conducted at the University of California , San Diego (UCSD) by utilizing its large high performance outdoor shake table (LHPOST). This part of the study will precede the shake table tests at UNR. An international component is included in the tasks on innovative materials and numerical simulations.

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