Earthquake simulator at UC San Diego to get major upgrades

Awarded $16.3 Million grant
Posted at 7:53 AM, Oct 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-18 10:53:16-04

SCRIPPS RANCH (KGTV): The "shake table" at UC San Diego will soon be able to move just like a real earthquake, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Researchers at UC San Diego received $16.3 million for upgrades to the machine.

"This would become one of the very best centers for earthquake engineering worldwide," says Professor Joel Conte, who teaches in the school's Department of Structural Engineering.

Researchers say, right now, the shake table only moves back and forth, rocking large structures placed on top of it. With the grant, they'll be able to change the hydraulics on the machine. Once completed, it will shake back and forth, left and right, up and down and will also pitch, roll and yaw.

"We'll be able to reproduce real earthquake ground motions much more realistically, much more accurately, and much more completely," says Conte.

Building designers and researchers use the shake table to test how structures will react to an earthquake, what kind of damage they'd sustain and whether or not they'd be usable immediately afterward.

The shake table can hold multi-story buildings, bridge columns, wind turbines and more. The first structure scheduled to be tested after the upgrade is a 10-story building made from cross-laminated timber.

According to the school, the money from the grant will add "new hydraulic pumps, a cooling tower and very large accumulator banks for the facility’s hydraulic-powered system. It will cover the costs of reconfiguring the existing two horizontal actuators, adding another two horizontal actuators, and powering the six vertical actuators to generate table motion."

Researchers say it will be the most modern, functional shake table in the world.

"As soon as it can move in several directions, we will be able to serve all these needs," says Conte. "In the past, the industry in California often had to go to Japan, to China, to Korea. That will not be the case anymore."

Construction on the upgrades will start in February of 2020 and be complete by July of 2021.