Clarkson's Wu and Nakata Win NSF Award for Research Fortifying Structures Against Coastal Water Disasters

Much of the discussion during last week’s Third Thursday event at Clarkson’s Beacon Institute focused on the ability of humans to adapt to and mitigate against the profound changes climate change will bring to the global environment. Sea level rise and disruption of weather patterns could pose unprecedented threats to communities, especially along the coast.

By Crystal Payton (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Crystal Payton (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

While it is not yet certain to what degree the effects of climate change are already being felt, tsunamis, floods, storms and high waves have been in the news regularly due to the casualties and extensive economic loss they cause around the world.

A National Science Foundation (NSF) award to Clarkson University Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Weiming Wu and Associate Professor Narutoshi Nakata will enable the pair to research methods to improve structural engineering for coastal water disasters. The $276,000 grant was awarded through the NSF Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation program to advance structural simulation for such hazards.

According to Nakata:

Clarkson University Civil & Environmental Engineering Professor Weiming Wu, left, and Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Narutoshi Nakata are researching how to improve structures to better withstand coastal water disasters. Wu and Nakata received a National Science Foundation award to advance structural simulation for these hazards.

Clarkson University Civil & Environmental Engineering Professor Weiming Wu, left, and Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Narutoshi Nakata are researching how to improve structures to better withstand coastal water disasters. Wu and Nakata received a National Science Foundation award to advance structural simulation for these hazards.

My research has been hazard mitigation from a structural engineering standpoint and how we understand the behaviors of the structure. The main work we would be doing is integrating computational fluid dynamics with structural simulation and laboratory testing.

Existing structural simulation techniques are predominately developed to study earthquake loads, but are not suitable for fluid loads. Nakata’s research will help expand structural simulation to multi-hazard situations, including coastal water and high winds. Ultimately, Nakata said, the goal is to reduce the economic loss and damage to the structure.

Without a good understanding we can’t improve the design code, and we can’t reduce the economic cost . . . A successful completion of the project will advance the field of structural engineering and hazard mitigation with needed simulation capabilities

Nakata and Wu will be building structural models and demonstrating these advanced capabilities in Clarkson’s structures lab over the next three years. One doctoral student, at least one master’s student and undergraduate students will be involved in the project.

The combination of computational fluid dynamics and force-based testing will increase scientists’ understanding of structural performance in storm surges and improve design practices. The team plans to integrate the research into education, training and outreach activities.

Nakata is a recipient of the 2010 NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award. He is currently the chair of the Hybrid Simulation Task Force Group and a member of the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) Steering Committee. This newly funded project will leverage his expertise developed through the NSF CAREER grant and align well with his committee efforts.

Wu is an expert in Computational Modeling of Free-Surface Flow and Sediment Transport. He published his book Computational River Dynamics in 2007. He is a Fellow of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and serves as an associate editor for the prestigious Journal of Hydraulic Engineering of ASCE. Through this NSF project, he will contribute his expertise to flow and structure interactions and coastal hazard mitigation.