Located at the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, the strong floor — the second largest structural testing floor on the West Coast — allows researchers to simulate earthquakes and forces up to one million pounds and frames up to two stories high. The floor, measuring 24 feet wide and 68 feet long, is steel-reinforced, five feet thick concrete, with massive bolts and anchors to which materials can be attached and their strength tested.
"Structures are still the vanguard of civil and construction engineering, and if you want to have a great program combining both research and teaching in this area you need a facility such as this," said Chris Higgins, professor of structural engineering in the College of Engineering. "Now we can test, at full scale, new high performance materials, innovative connectors, seismic energy dissipating devices, as well as different configurations of traditional steel and concrete materials that might be used to provide more efficient or economical structures."
The facility aids research on bridge girders, bridge decks, beam column connections, shear walls and other structures used in constructing buildings, bridges, and infrastructure. "Large steel reaction frames attached to the strong floor allow us to apply forces to any component we want to test," Higgins said. "For instance, we could apply 800,000 pounds of crushing force to a beam using just a few of the attachment points."
The Oregon Dept. of Transportation (ODOT) awarded OSU Civil Engineering researchers almost $1.6 million to help the state analyze the severity of cracks found in more than 500 of its bridges. Researchers will develop modeling tools and data banks to forecast how the cracked bridges will perform over time. The cracks, detected during routine ODOT inspections, affect bridges on Oregon's interstate and state highways. "Without our new strong floor laboratory, ODOT would have gone out of state to conduct this research," says Higgins, an international leader in this research area.
The strong floor cost approximately $160,000 to construct and is a good example of how investing in engineering education ultimately helps the people of Oregon, Higgins said. The ODOT grant, in conjunction with the strong floor, will allow Higgins, graduate students, and fellow structural engineering faculty to test bridge components to the failure point by applying forces, or the weight from vehicles moving across the bridge.