The 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan killed more than 15,000 people, caused a nuclear meltdown and decimated thousands of structures.
To prepare for the next disaster, URI civil and ocean engineering Professor Christopher Baxter is spending part of 2014 in Japan. In August, he worked with faculty and students from Chuo University to study damage in Itako, about 30 miles east of Tokyo.
The team studied liquefaction damage, or the phenomenon where soil loses its rigidity because of a change in applied stress, in this case caused by the 2011 earthquake. Baxter and his colleagues collected soil samples and sent them to Chuo University for analysis. Eventually, researchers backed by the central government hope the information will help them strengthen defenses against the next earthquake.
A mission by University of Rhode Island engineering students to treat wastewater at a Guatemalan school brought students to the nation’s capital in April 2014.
At the National Sustainable Design Expo, students updated government officials and industry executives on their multi-year project in rural San Mateo Ixtatán, Guatemala. Under the auspices of the Engineers for a Sustainable World URI chapter, the students have designed and started to implement a septic system for a local school. The low-maintenance, self-running system replaces a pipe that deposited raw sewage into a nearby river.
The students will travel to Guatemala in the summer of 2014 to continue work on the project. They plan to build a sand filter and constructed wetlands to serve as a secondary treatment process for the septic tank they previously installed.
Students who presented in Washington, D.C. were Maria Briones (’14), Mattia Gorga (’15), Jonathan Rosales (’16), Joseph Rocchio (’16), and Engineers for a Sustainable World URI chapter President Jessica Damicis (’15). Civil engineering Professor Vinka Oyanedel-Craver serves as the group’s advisor.]]>
Oyanedel-Craver will use the five-year, $432,000 award to study how bacteria respond when exposed to rare earth element oxide and metal nanoparticles. Such nanoparticles are used as contrast agents during MRI examinations and as agents to prevent odors in clothing, among other uses.
When released into the environment, such nanoparticles may change how bacteria function. Because bacteria recycle environmental nutrients and some of them can cause disease, their reaction to exposure to nanoparticles is of interest to researchers.
“Nanotechnology can greatly improve our quality of life through the development of more effective medicines or materials with novel functionalities,” Oyanedel-Craver says. “However, this technology needs to be developed in a responsible way. My research will help to ensure minimum negative impacts to the environment and human health.”
The CAREER Award comes as the College of Engineering seeks to focus its research around seven themes. One emphasizes nanoparticles research and another seeks to leverage engineering expertise to deliver clean water around the world. As a group, the seven themes seek to shape the world in which we live.]]>
That bumpy ride over a bridge is not just an uncomfortable, but possibly causing the bridge to deteriorate prematurely. Civil engineering Associate Professor Mayrai Gindy wants to better understand how the smoothness of concrete bridges can lengthen the lives of bridges and, ultimately, improve their safety.
Armed with a $131,370 grant from the R.I. Department of Transportation, Gindy will conduct research to determine the relationship between the placement of steel rebar in bridge decks and the measured smoothness of the deck that carries traffic. She’ll use ground-penetrating radar to locate the rebar in bridges and then use a surface-profiling machine to measure the smoothness of the concrete.
Back in her lab, Gindy will put all the results together to find the optimized location for rebar and just how much concrete workers should pour over the steel bars. In the end, her results will bring a smoother ride for drivers.]]>