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George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation

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NEES Consortium Operation: FY 2005 - FY 2014  (NEES Consortium, Inc.)

Research Focus

The George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) is the centerpiece of NSF’s ongoing priority to understand earthquakes and prevent or mitigate the damage they cause.

Opened for operations on Oct. 1, 2004, NEES is a network of 14 sites available for experimentation on-site, in the field and through remote operations.

The network includes shake tables, geotechnical centrifuges, a tsunami wave basin, unique large-scale testing laboratory facilities and mobile and permanently installed field equipment. These tools help researchers understand how earthquake and tsunami forces affect ground motion and soil liquefaction as well as the built environment—buildings, bridges, utility systems—and near-shore and coastal environments.

The NEES networking cyberinfrastructure connects equipment sites and provides a curated central data repository, simulation tools and collaborative tools for online planning as well as execution and post-processing of experiments.

In addition to Cornell, participating sites include Lehigh UniversityOregon State UniversityRensselaer Polytechnic InstituteState University of New York at BuffaloUniversity of California at BerkeleyUniversity of California at DavisUCLAUniversity of California at San DiegoUniversity of California at Santa BarbaraUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-ChampaignUniversity of MinnesotaUniversity of Nevada, Reno; and the University of Texas, Austin.

Research Outcomes

During its first six years of research, NEES sites engaged in more than 160 multi-year, multi-investigator projects. All of the centers rely upon cutting-edge experimental simulation tools and facilities to reproduce earthquake and tsunami effects as closely as possible.

Research goals have ranged from improving the seismic performance of steel and concrete structures to understanding geotechnical response, and the studies have used shake tables (devices that can shake structural models or building components with a wide range of simulated ground motions), floor-mounted actuator assemblies, centrifuges and field equipment.

Researchers also have studied the behavior of tsunamis through the use of instrumented field sites and wave basins, which create the kind of waves, winds and currents that result from an ocean earthquake or other major disturbance above or below the ocean.

The network has a global reach. The NEES equipment mobile laboratory at UCLA deployed to Chile in 2010 after that 8.8-magnitude earthquake to study its damaged buildings. 

Education & Outreach

NEES supports education outreach and collaboration among researchers through a cyber network that links all of its members. This allows them to share data in real time, hold meetings and watch various tests in action. 

Oregon State University has developed a comprehensive program using the Internet to educate current and future engineering students and the general public about tsunami hazards and ways to reduce their risks. Thousands of students from kindergarten through college have learned about the principles of structural safety and strength, then built their own scaled models of tsunami-resistant structures. The models are sent to the Oregon lab where they are tested while students watch online in real time.

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Images (1 of )

  • Photo of shake table installation
  • screenshot of NEES special report, map with NEES sites
This image taken during the installation of a shake table at the University of Nevada, Reno, shows the scale of the test facility. The full laboratory consists of three such tables.
Patrick Laplace, University of Nevada, Reno
NSF special report:

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