Putting a productive spin on hurricane damage

This piece of hardware is a 150G-ton centrifuge, one of just four of its kind in the US. Engineers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will use it to collect data that will lead to the rebuilding of Hurricane Katrina-ravaged levees in N

Pic: Rensselaer/Paul Castle

This piece of hardware is a 150G-ton centrifuge, one of just four of its kind in the US. Engineers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New YorkState, will use it to collect data that will lead to the rebuilding of Hurricane Katrina-ravaged levees in New Orleans.

The engineers will study small-scale models of sections of the flood-protection system. They will then replicate conditions during Hurricane Katrina by subjecting the models to flood loads, enabling them to help the US Army Corps of Engineers prepare the city for the next hurricane season.

Rensselaer

‘s centrifuge has a large mechanical arm that can swing model structures around at 250mph, exerting forces structures would face only at catastrophic moments.

‘Suppose we want to test a levee that is 100ft high,’ said Tarek Abdoun, principal investigator and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. ‘We can build a model that is only 1ft and then spin it around at 100G, making it equivalent to a 100ft levee. We can simulate all kinds of structures under just about any failure condition and we can do it relatively fast at a very reasonable cost.’

A system of advanced sensors will measure the response of the levees in both the vertical and horizontal planes, and cameras will be mounted around the models.