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Seismic Sensors

From a masonry house to a three-story parking garage, a concrete bridge column and an 80-foot wind turbine, structures built atop the shake table at the UC San Diego Englekirk Structural Engineering Center are equipped with high-tech sensors that monitor how they perform during violent jolts.

"Sensors tell us how much a structure deformed and accelerated during a shake table test. The damage in a structure is related to the level of deformation it experiences," said Benson Shing, a structural engineering professor.

Five types of sensors are used during the simulated earthquakes on the world's largest outdoor shake table -- strain gauges and fiber optic sensors, which measure strains in structural components and materials, such as reinforcing bars; displacement transducers, which measure the deformation of a structural component or system; accelerometers, which measure the acceleration at different locations in a structure; and Global Positioning System sensors, which use satellites to monitor the positions of different points in the structure. Data collected from the sensors is used to develop better building codes and to validate analytical models and computer simulation results.

Profs inspect damage after earthquake simulations
Jacobs School structural engineering professor Benson Shing (left) and Hussein Okail, a Jacobs School structural engineering postdoc, inspect damage to a wood-stud structure with brick veneer after putting it through a series of vigorous simulated earthquakes.
A 20-foot bridge column was recently tested on the shake table at the UCSD Englekirk Structural Engineering Center.