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Resonant Column Device for Education and Research in Biogeotechnics and Earthquake Engineering

Civil and Environmental Engineering








The main objective of this proposal is to enhance UW student educational experiences through the addition of new geotechnical laboratory testing equipment in the UW Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Undergraduate Geotechnical Laboratory. This laboratory is used by all CEE undergraduate students and many CEE graduate students as well as students from other related disciplines including Earth and Space Sciences. The primary motivation to acquire this equipment is to enhance undergraduate and graduate student education through new opportunities for students to have hands-on laboratory testing experience and to participate in student-driven research in the important areas of geotechnical earthquake engineering and biologically-mediated geotechnics (biogeotechnics). Funding is specifically requested to purchase one resonant column soil testing device and related accessories, which will be capable of characterizing the small-strain dynamic properties of soils, an aspect of geotechnical testing which can help engineers better understand the consequences of loading imposed by earthquakes and other natural hazards on civil infrastructure systems. Important soil behavioral characteristics such as soil-stiffness degradation and energy-dissipation behaviors are critical towards understanding the larger-strain behavior of civil infrastructure subjected to earthquake loading, but cannot be studied using current equipment at UW. Thus, the addition of this capability will greatly strengthen and expand the opportunities available to our undergraduate and graduate students by allowing them to leverage multiple pieces of advanced testing equipment to perform important geotechnical analyses and develop unparalleled technical expertise. This equipment will provide an entirely new and important resource for undergraduate and graduate student problem-based learning and research. In addition to enhancing student learning opportunities related to geotechnical earthquake engineering, resonant column testing can allow students to understand a variety of other important soil behaviors including those relevant to wind-induced and wave-induced cyclic loading as well as the dynamic behavior of new geomaterials being developed by undergraduate researchers in UW CEE. For example, the soil dynamic properties assessed by students could be used to better understand a variety of different loadings on the behavior of dams and levees, building foundations, and tunnels, among other geotechnical structures. The equipment will also allow undergraduate student researchers to continue research in the emerging area of bio-mediated soil improvement, which uses microbiological processes to improve the engineering behavior of soils through mineral precipitation, biogas generation, and production of organic polymers. These processes can produce new geomaterials, which can improve the safety and resilience of civil infrastructure while reducing environmental impacts when compared to current technologies. One process, known as bio-cementation, uses soil bacteria to generate carbonate minerals to improve the behavior of soils without environmentally damaging additives. This process as well as similar technologies are currently being looked at by CEE undergraduate and graduate students and could be examined using this equipment. In summary, the requested resonant column testing equipment will dramatically strengthen the educational experiences and research opportunities available to UW CEE undergraduate and graduate students alike. The equipment will allow UW students to develop expertise in advanced soil laboratory testing, geotechnical earthquake engineering, and bio-mediated geotechnics. Both geotechnical industry and academia are seeking students with such expertise and this equipment will allow our students to have a competitive edge when looking for future educational and employment opportunities. Furthermore, the equipment will provide new opportunities for our students to reach diverse K-12 student communities and other UW and community college students considering careers in STEM and specifically engineering. For all these reasons, we believe that the addition of a resonant column device to our undergraduate geotechnical laboratory will greatly enhance UW student experiences.

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