Jacobs School to Build World's First Outdoor
Shake Table for Full-Scale Structural Earthquake Safety Tests
The Jacobs School’s Structural Engineering Departmentis
building the world’s first outdoor shake table. With its powerful
hydraulic actuators capable of shakingat speeds up to 6 ft. per second,
the equipmentwill create realistic simulations of the most devastating earthquakes
ever recorded. At 25 ft by 40 ft., it will be the largest shake table in
the United States.
engineers will be able to test buildings up to 60 ft. tall and
structures weighing up to 2,200 tons.
The project is funded through a $5.9 million grantfrom the National Science
Foundation with matching funds totaling $5 million from the state, industry
partners and UCSD.
“This new outdoor laboratory will seal UCSD’s position as
the innovation leader in structural testing for earthquake hazard mitigation,”
said Frieder Seible, Interim Dean of the Jacobs School and director of
the Charles Lee Powell Structural Research Laboratories. “Because
there is no roof over the shake table, we will be able to use tall cranes
and heavy equipment to construct and test full-scale buildings and structures,
something that has not been possible before. We can now physically validate
many construction systems that have previously only been analyzed through
For example, the shake table will be used to validate the seismic safety
of storage casks for spent nuclear fuel rods. Analytical models have shown
that the containers would not crack under earthquake loads.
However, because the containers are so heavy and so big, there has previously
been no shake table in the U.S. capable of testing the actual performance
of casks in an earthquake. Next generation tests will also be done for multi-story
buildings, bridge columns and bents, wharfs and piers, and lifeline structures
such as electrical sub-stations.
The shake table is part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF)
effort to transform the nation’s ability to carry out earthquake
engineering research. Through its George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake
Engineering Simulation (NEES), www.nees.org, NSF is providing $82 million
to construct or enhance laboratories at more than 15 U.S. universities.
All of the sites will be connected via the NEESgrid, an Internet-based
network to make testing facilities and results available to researchers
The large high performance outdoor shake table will be located at a new
structural engineering field station to be constructed at Camp Elliott,
located eight miles east of the campus. Adjacent to the shake table, UCSD
is building a Soil Foundation-Structure Interaction (SFSI) Facility funded
by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).
Taken together, the shake table and SFSI will allow for one of a kind
testing of structural systems such as bridge abutments, embankments and
The field station at Camp Elliott is an extension of the Charles Lee
Powell Structural Research Laboratories. The Powell Labs are world-renown
for their capability for testing large-scale structural systems. Existing
facilities include the Seismic Response Modification Device Testing Facility
with a 16 ft. by 12 ft., sixdegree-of-freedom shake table designed to
test new technologies to retrofit the state’s longest span bridges;
the Structural Systems Laboratory for testing of buildings up to five
stories tall and bridges up to 120 ft. long, and the Structural Components
Laboratory which includes a 65 ft. long reaction wall for side-by-side
testing of full- or large-scale components and a 16 ft. by 10 ft. uni-axial
Co-investigators on the NSF grant include Jacobs School Structural Engineering
Professors Frieder Seible, Scott Ashford, Joel P. Conte, Ahmed-Waeil Elgamal,
André Filiatrault, J. Enrique Luco, José Restrepo, and Chia-Ming
Uang. Dr. Lelli Van Den Einde is the Project Manager and Larry Berman
is the Sr. Development Engineer.
The shake table is expected to be fully operational by October 2004.