NSF Awards Lehigh $5.3M to Renew NHERI Experimental Facility

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The National Science Foundation has awarded Lehigh a $5.3M grant renewing the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) Experimental Facility for another five years. The facility operates within Lehigh’s Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems (ATLSS) Engineering Research Center within the Institute for Cyber Physical Infrastructure & Energy (I-CPIE). Preceded by Lehigh’s Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) RTMD facility, the NHERI facility was established in 2016 under funding from the National Science Foundation to help meet the grand challenge of community resilience to natural hazards.

The NHERI Lehigh EF will operate as an open-access facility under the leadership of Principal Investigator Dr. James Ricles, Bruce G. Johnston Professor of Structural Engineering, and Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Richard Sause, Joseph T. Stuart Professor of Structural Engineering & I-CPIE Director. The NHERI Lehigh EF provides access to unique experimental resources and data management for National Science Foundation-supported research and education awards. Researchers who use the facility have access to the experimental resources to perform accurate, large-scale simulations in multi-directions to study the effects of natural hazards on the civil infrastructure (e.g., the effects of soil-foundation structure interaction under wind and earthquake hazards).

Speaking to the NHERI Lehigh’s EF’s unique portfolio of equipment, instrumentation, infrastructure, and experimental simulation control protocols that does not exist elsewhere in the U.S., Ricles noted that the  strength of the facility is accurate large-scale, multi-directional simulations of the effects of natural hazard events on infrastructure systems (i.e., buildings, coastal facilities, etc.). Ricles said the focus of the NHERI Lehigh EF will include large-scale, multidirectional, real-time hybrid simulations that combine physical experiments with computer-based simulations (a form of cyber-physical systems research) for evaluating the performance of systems subjected to natural hazards.

Reflecting on the role that the NHERI Lehigh EF will play in enabling researchers to develop transformative hazard mitigation strategies, Ricles commented, “as leaders in the development, implementation, and use of real-time hybrid simulation for large-scale laboratory testing, the facility will offer researchers unique advanced testing algorithms that utilize the portfolio of resources…the research performed at the Lehigh EF will increase our knowledge of the physical response characteristics, vulnerabilities, and factors that influence the resiliency of the civil infrastructure.”

Ricles also noted that the large-scale real-time experiments performed at the facility will lead to the acquisition of rich data sets and creation of high-fidelity computational models for the purpose of performing advanced numerical simulations. Additionally, the research performed at the facility will enable the development of innovative materials and structural concepts in ways that are not possible without the NHERI Lehigh EF.