Breaking ground on earthquake study

NSF' Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation program

During an earthquake, researchers have mere seconds to gather valuable information

that can lead to better building design, more reliable utilities and quicker

disaster recovery.

But when the ground is calm, computer simulations give researchers the opportunity

to study the impact of earthquakes and devise preventive measures.

A $300,000 award to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is intended

to open such pockets of research and enable earthquake engineers to remotely

access a system of testing and experimental facilities.

The National Science Foundation announced the award Tuesday as the first

phase of its Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation project, which

could lead to the creation of a NEES grid worth $10 million.

University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications

will lead a six-month study to develop the scope and design for a national

online network that will provide researchers with shared use of advanced

research equipment, databases and computer modeling and simulation tools,

according to an NSF statement.

Researchers will be able to control experimental tools — a seismograph,

camera or even a robot — from remote sites using a desktop workstation,

according to a University of Illinois statement. The NEES grid also will

link supercomputers and high-end computing clusters, storage facilities,

software repositories and databases.

The university's partners on the study include its own Mid-America Earthquake

Center and Department of Civil Engineering, the Energy Department's Argonne

National Laboratory, the University of Michigan's Collaboratory for Research

on Electronic Work and the University of Southern California's Information

Sciences Institute and Department of Civil Engineering.

NSF plans to bring multiple facilities under one "virtual roof" this year

by providing additional funds to upgrade existing earthquake research facilities

and build new ones, the NSF statement said.

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