World’s Largest Earthquake Simulator Gets Cash Infusion
The University of California - San Diego is home to the world's largest outdoor earthquake simulator. The table has hosted a number of interesting tests in the past, including a three-story building that was tested to failure in 2017.
The earthquake simulator will now receive some pretty powerful upgrades after it received a $16.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to expand its testing capabilities.
Researchers want to make the shake table more realistic. Until now, the table could only move back and forth in one direction. It will soon have the full range of ground motion that occurs during an earthquake. The upgraded table can now be used to test the biggest projects in the world, like bridge components, larger buildings and wind turbines.
After the upgrades, researchers will first test a full-scale 10-story building made from cross-laminated timber. The goal will be to gather data to design wood buildings as tall as 20 stories that do not suffer significant damage during large earthquakes.
Cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle are now working to retrofit old concrete buildings for seismic safety, which will require large-scale tests of retrofitting systems.
The shake table was originally designed in 2001-02 to reproduce all the directions of ground motion in an earthquake, but its capabilities were scaled back due to budget constraints. The shake table facility will be closed from February 2020 to July 2021 to perform the upgrades.
Researchers Develop Accurate, Lightweight VR Glove
Researchers at the EPFL and ETH Zurich in Switzerland have created DextrES, an ultra-light glove that allows users to feel and move virtual objects.
The system is made of nylon and thin elastic metal strips separated by an electric insulator that runs over the fingers. When the user reaches out for a virtual object, a controller applies voltage to the metal strips, which stops or slows the user’s fingers via electrostatic attraction. The glove is currently tethered, but it could soon be battery-operated as it doesn't draw much power even though it reportedly provides incredible haptic feedback.
The design doesn’t use any cables or fluidics, so it's not as bulky as other options on the market. The glove only weighs 8 grams per finger and is 2 mm thick. It can generate 40 Newtons of holding force in each finger using only 200 volts and a few milliwatts.
EPFL created the hardware, and ETH Zurich not only developed the VR system, but also performed user tests, such as theVR manipulation and grasping tasks. The test subjects said the sensations were accurate as they moved things like a book, coffee cup, highlighter and a croissant.
Next, the researchers want to take the tech and build a complete suit for virtual reality environments. The suit would certainly target the gaming industry and we sprint towards the dystopian future in Ready Player One, but it could also be used for professional development, like training surgeons.
Project Bloodhound is Out of Money
Project Bloodhound was founded in 2007 to break the land speed world record. But now, the only thing the project has broken is the bank.
On Monday, the Bloodhound Programme, the company behind the effort to hit speeds over 1,000 mph, entered into administration. When a company in the UK goes into administration, the keys to the company are turned over to a court-appointed administrator whose primary goal is to leverage the company's assets and business to repay creditors as quickly and as fully as possible without preference.
The Bloodhound is a combination of a F1 car, a jet, and a spaceship that has so far reached 200 mph. According to the company, it needs about $33 million to see the project through to that 1,000 mph goal.
Project Bloodhound is more than a couple of guys in the desert trying to go fast. According to the company, the project has reached more than two million children as part of a joint STEM education campaign.
The prototype is powered by a donated Rolls Royce EJ200 jet engine and runs on an 11-mile test track in South Africa.
In a statement, Andrew Sheridan, one of the joint administrator charged with the project's fate, said that “this is an opportunity for the right investor to leave a lasting legacy.” Sheridan says they already have a number of potential investors, but he still encourages any other interested parties to reach out “without delay.”
Mark Chapman, chief engineer of Project Bloodhound, says that they have created “the world’s most advanced land vehicle,” but needs a different approach to funding.
So, if you have $33 million sitting around and you aspire to share a piece of the land speed record, you know who to call.
This is Engineering By Design.