New Grants

Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT): Asset Management of Retaining Walls. PI Adda Athanasopoulos-Zekkos, co-PIs Jerry Lynch and Dimitrios Zekkos. 2016.

The purpose of transportation asset management is to meet life-cycle performance goals (e.g., safety, mobility, preservation, economic impact and environmental stewardship) through the management of physical assets in the most cost-effective manner (FHWA, 2013). Geotechnical asset management can be incorporated into the broader practice of transportation asset management. Currently, many agencies manage geotechnical features on the basis of “worst-first” conditions, reacting to failures and incurring significant safety, mobility, environmental, and other intangible costs. Whereas, this may be an appropriate response for failures following natural hazards, the goal of geotechnical asset management is to implement project planning and selection on the basis of “most-at-risk” for the asset class with consideration of collective and site specific risks throughout the system life cycle. Retaining walls are one of the geotechnical features that can affect the transportation system’s performance and must be appropriately risk managed. This proposal explores the development of a comprehensive risk management framework for the asset management of retaining wall structures. With a recent string of partially failed retaining walls throughout the MDOT inventory, this proposal provides MDOT with a rational and quantitative approach to assessing, analyzing and rating the risk profile of in-service retaining walls. The outcomes of the project will include: 1) novel instrumentation and analytical framework for MDOT use in their decision making processes; 2) modification of inspection methods and manuals that reflect the instrumentation strategies and risk analyses developed.

National Science Foundation (NSF): Collaborative Research — Connecting Women Faculty in Geotechnical Engineering: Thriving in a Networked World. PI Adda Athanasopoulos-Zekkos. 2016.

Collaboration often results in greater productivity and innovation than when working alone. Given the increasing complexity of the problems Geotechnical Engineers address and the increasing connectivity in the world, faculty need to be able to manage their professional connections with greater efficiency and effectiveness.

The goal for this National Science Foundation (NSF) grant is to create an enduring network of colleagues, both women and men, for geotechnical women faculty that fosters career success and resilience. Ultimately, the grant aims to increase the number of women attracted to and retained in the field. This project applies social network analysis and professional development activities to improve networking and collaboration among geotechnical engineering faculty, especially among women faculty, in order to bridge the isolation created by geographical distances, low representation, and connectivity gaps. Building on past efforts of NSF and others, the project will create a network that fosters active, ongoing connections and provides access to collaboration opportunities among geotechnical engineering faculty, both women and men, in the United States.

Networking improvements will be facilitated by developing a cohesive intellectual community that provides greater access to mentoring, novel information, new resources, and potential collaboration partners. The intervention consists of two face-to-face workshops and the enhancement of digital and other long distance networking practices. Between the network building workshop in April 2017 and the collaboration workshop in spring 2018, participants will have access to funds that will support partnerships and collaboration. Pre and post surveys will evaluate the social networks of geotechnical women faculty and their digital, long distance network preferences. Male colleagues will also be invited to take the surveys to understand their network and connection behaviors as well. The second workshop will be connected to an existing disciplinary conference and male colleagues who have submitted surveys will be invited to this event thus extending opportunities for women participants to collaborate with colleagues and practice network building strategies.

The project is led by geotechnical engineering faculty: Shobha Bhatia of Syracuse University, Adda Athanasopoulos-Zekkos of University of Michigan, and Patricia Gallagher of Drexel University with support from social network analyst and engineering faculty Sucheta Soundarajan of Syracuse University. Sharon Alestalo of Syracuse University will be the logistics and assessment expert.

CRISP Type 2; Interdependencies in Community Resilience (ICoR): A Simulation Framework. PI Sherif El-Tawil. 2016.

Part 1: A nontechnical description of the project (not the proposal), which explains the project's significance and importance. Natural hazards engineering, and disaster science more broadly, have evolved into a multitude of highly specialized disciplines, each dedicated to handling a subset of the overall challenge of mitigating the effects of natural hazards.

While progress in each discipline has varied by the historical size of its research community and amount of resources devoted to it, a common observation is that computational research is widespread in all fields. By exploiting this state of affairs and using computational modeling as a common language to link disparate disciplines, this project’s proposed computational platform will open the door for researchers to collaborate in new ways. Users will be able to connect their individual computational models (simulators) to the proposed integrative platform and simultaneously run them with simulators from other disciplines to explore the complex interactions that take place between the different systems of society during and after natural hazard disasters. The ability to seamlessly interface with other models with minimal effort will foster entirely new collaborations between researchers who do not traditionally work together, enabling as-of- yet unimagined studies within and contributions to the natural hazards engineering and disaster science fields. The new understanding that will result from this effort will shed light on the complex interactions that take place between policy, casualty rates and community resilience and clarify to what extent policy changes need to be implemented to significantly influence a community’s level of resilience to natural disasters. The work will also have a substantial impact on the development of human resources. By bridging civil engineering, social science and computer science, the students who will work on this project will attain a truly multi-disciplinary education at the intersection of these disciplines. The unique skills these students will acquire will allow them to make significant contributions to the future of natural hazards engineering and disaster science and position them as thought leaders in these fields.

Part 2: A technical description of the project that states its goals and scope, the methods and approaches to be used, and its potential contribution.

Extreme natural hazards, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, can trigger intricate interdependencies between the critical infrastructure systems of society, including the built environment (e.g., buildings and bridges), elements of social organization (e.g., social power and cohesion), and institutional arrangements (e.g., policies, politics, economics, and disaster mitigation). Employing High Level Architecture, an established set of standards that foster interoperability, a simulation framework will be developed to allow researchers from different natural hazards research sub-fields to link their models together to study the effects of infrastructure interdependencies on community resilience. These interdependencies are complex; e.g. in a hurricane, each building of the community shelters people and is both a potential target of and source for wind-borne missiles. The interdependencies are also dynamic and have not been adequately studied in the past because of the broadly interdisciplinary nature of the problem. Community resilience will be assessed in terms of the interactions that arise between infrastructure robustness, social organization, and policy. Infrastructure robustness, directly influences casualty rates. Casualty rates are a direct function of social organization and both depend on the policies in effect prior to the event and can influence future policy. By applying the tools developed in this research to seismic and hurricane scenarios as case studies, interactions between policy, especially as it evolved over the past decades, cost, casualty rates, and community resilience will be modeled with the objective of seeking new insights into such a complex problem. The studies will address the extent to which policy changes need to be implemented to significantly influence a community’s level of resilience. Quantifying these values will allow the most cost-effective changes to be pin pointed and therefore will help to direct future changes in policy targeting resilience in the future. They will furthermore allow the disciplined study of emergence in the complex community resilience problem, an interdisciplinary topic recognized as extremely important to all branches of science at present.

For more information, please read the October 11, 2016, news article on our website.

Enhancing Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Through Robust Self-Healing Ductile Concrete - A New Paradigm. PI Victor Li. 2016.

With the aging of civil infrastructure, deterioration in their function and safety is threatening the economy and quality of life in the US. While infrastructure aging is inevitable, deterioration is not – provided that we shift the paradigm of concrete design. This research proposes a new approach of concrete design that embodies damage control and damage management. In other words, concrete damage is allowed, but controlled to retain sufficient material integrity that subsequently recovers efficiently. As a result, civil infrastructure will be more sustainable and resilient. The ultimate goal of this project is to interrupt the ubiquitous infrastructure deterioration and safety concerns in the US through advanced materials engineering.

National Science Foundation (NSF): INFEWS/T3: Advancing Technologies and Improving Communication of Urine-Derived Fertilizers for Food Production Within a Risk-Based Framework. PI Nancy Love, U-M Co-PIs Krista Wigginton, Joseph Eisenberg, Rebecca Hardin. 2016.

A new $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will fund critical next steps in an ongoing program that explores deriving fertilizers from urine. Previous research by Professor Nancy Love, Assistant Professor Krista Wigginton and others has already proven the feasibility of urine-derived fertilizers. This grant enables the continuation of that work and the addition of a key component, the development of a communications program to educate people and help sway them away from an “ick!” reaction. For more information, please read the September 6, 2016, news article on our website.

National Pork Board: Demonstration of Airborne PRRSv Inactivation by a Non-Thermal Plasma. PI Herek Clack. 2016.

This grant from the National Pork Board obtains performance data on the ability of a non-thermal plasma to inactivate the virus that causes porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome. Currently, U.S. pork producers rely on particulate filters installed on hog barn ventilation air intakes to limit the spread of the virus that causes porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRSv). The use of these filters can be a costly solution because they must be replaced periodically and require adequate ventilation fan power. In addition, some barns require retrofitting to establish the necessary air-tight building envelope without increasing the risk of animal heat stress. The use of non-thermal plasma may be a less expensive and reliable method of controlling PRRSv.

  • PRRSv is estimated to cost U.S. pork producers $660M annually.
  • Pork is the #1 food protein in China, which raises 5X as many swine as the U.S. annually.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA): Non-Thermal Plasmas as Airborne Pathogen Barriers for Animal Confinement Buildings. PI Herek Clack, Co-PI Krista Wigginton. 2016.

ClackThis grant opens a new area of research for the department: preventing airborne transmission of diseases. This grant will focus on preventing diseases that can devastate livestock, such as the avian influenza (AI, commonly referred to as "bird flu") outbreak in summer 2015, which led 50 million chickens to be euthanized to prevent further spread of AI. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provides leadership and funding for programs that advance agriculture-related sciences. The goal of this project is to dramatically improve the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of environmental controls protecting livestock and agricultural workers. In pursuit of this goal, this project will demonstrate the potential of a non-thermal plasma to serve as an airborne pathogen barrier for animal confinement buildings. Infectious aerosols, or fomites, entrained in ventilation can transmit a number of important infectious diseases including transboundary livestock diseases. Conventional agricultural biosecurity measures target infectious agents transmitted on worker clothing or equipment and cannot address airborne transmission. Conventional air filtration methods can be effective barriers to airborne pathogens but are costly to implement. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, of the two defining characteristics of infectious aerosols - transport and infectivity - conventional air filtration methods only address aerosol transport. The underlying objectives supporting this goal will be achieved through the construction of a laboratory-scale non-thermal plasma (NTP) reactor.  Experiments conducted on this reactor will yield baseline NTP performance measures. 

NSF: PIRE: Halting Environmental Antimicrobial Resistance Dissemination (HEARD). PI Peter Vikesland (Virginia Tech). U-Mich Co-PI Krista Wigginton. 2015.

WiggintonAntimicrobial resistance (AMR), which occurs when disease-causing organisms no longer respond to the drugs commonly used to treat them, is a worldwide public health crisis and as such has been proclaimed to be one of the greatest threats to human wellbeing of the 21st Century. Halting AMR is a complex task because natural background levels of AMR vary worldwide, there are many ways that humans impact AMR, and because natural and human impacts interact in different ways around the world to influence how multi-antimicrobial resistant "super-bugs" arise and are transmitted. Although substantial effort has focused on lessening hospital-derived resistance, the spread of AMR has continued to accelerate, thus creating new attention to diminishing the spread and/or transmission of AMR in the wastewater environment. Wastewater treatment plants are a logical focus because they serve as collection points for resistant organisms and antimicrobial compounds from a wide variety of sources (i.e., hospitals, industries, households) and they are potential breeding grounds for environmental dissemination of AMR. Antimicrobial drugs and other chemical stressors (e.g., heavy metals, biocides) regularly enter wastewater treatment plants and may select for resistant organisms, while also stimulating them to produce and share the DNA elements responsible for resistance. This PIRE project, Halting Environmental Antimicrobial Resistance Dissemination [HEARD], will 1) quantify how wastewater treatment processes affect different aspects of AMR (e.g., the antimicrobial drugs, AMR organisms, and the DNA elements underlying AMR) across a global transect of wastewater treatment plants, 2) determine how the characteristics of wastewater treatment plants and the receiving environment (e.g., river, lake, or pipe network) interact to affect the spread of AMR, and 3) develop and test novel approaches to stop the spread of AMR originating from wastewater treatment plants. The international team assembled for this PIRE project includes researchers from four U.S. institutions and six other countries (China, India, Philippines, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland). The international dimensions of this project are essential because 1) the propagation of AMR is of global concern, 2) the use and disposal of antimicrobials and wastewater management practices differ significantly from one society to another, and 3) international research collaboration prepares U.S. students to be part of a globally engaged U.S. science and engineering workforce.

NSF: SRN: Integrated Urban Infrastructure Solutions for Environmentally Sustainable, Healthy and Livable Cities. PI Anu Ramaswami (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities). U-Mich PI Joshua Newell, U-Mich Co-PI Lutgarde Raskin. 2015.

RaskinSeveral hundred cities in the US and abroad, including 40 of the world's most populous cities have announced goals that include environmental sustainability, health, climate-resiliency and livability. Engineered infrastructures - defined broadly to include the seven key sectors that provide water, energy, food, sanitation/waste management, transportation (connectivity and access) and public spaces to more than half the world's people living in cities today - are essential in achieving these multi-faceted societal goals. Increasingly, cities are exploring the proposition that movement from large centralized systems toward local or distributed infrastructure, combined with changes in user-behavior and corresponding changes in institutions and policy in all the above sectors - is a critical pathway in achieving the triple goals of environment, health and livability (EHL goals). However, this proposition has never been verified on the ground due to three key gaps in the science of developing EHL focused cities, namely: (i) lack of standard metrics for monitoring EHL urban outcomes; (ii) lack of understanding of the role of social actors - across multiple scales from the household to city/ regional government - in the adoption and stewardship of distributed infrastructure solutions, and (iii) lack of dynamic urban models that can represent the EHL outcomes associated with distributed infrastructure systems and explore city futures. This SRN will bring together a network of universities, cities and industry partners who, jointly, will co-develop the science of sustainability, practical knowledge and policy innovations that will enable urban infrastructure transformation toward environmentally-sustainable, healthy and livable (EHL) cities.

Electric Power Research Institute: Advanced Concrete for Energy Structures Application. PI Victor Li. 2015.

LiEnergy infrastructures including nuclear, hydroelectric, and wind power plants require durability and resiliency for their reliable and economic performance. These infrastructures are exposed to different types of environmental and mechanical loads. Advanced concrete that reduces maintenance requirements and downtimes are necessary to consistently achieve the desired performance goals. This project investigates the development of engineered cementitious composites tuned to meet specific energy infrastructure characteristics, including experimental verification of mechanical and durability performance, and life cycle cost analyses. The initial target is on wind energy infrastructure. The ultimate objective of this project is to enhance the reliability and economic performances of energy infrastructures through advanced concrete research.

NSF: CMMI: Time Effects in Sand: Delayed Micro-Cracking, Contact Fatigue, and Aging. PI Radoslaw Michalowski. 2015.

MichalowskiThis research is to address the fundamental issue: what causes time-dependent behavior in silica sand? A hypothesis is explored that identifies fracturing of microscopic textural features on grain surfaces at inter-granular contacts as the key cause of this behavior. This fracturing does not stop at the end of the loading process, but continues at constant load, with a decaying rate. Experimental evidence will be gathered from tests on individual contacts. Custom-designed testing equipment will be constructed. Sand grain surfaces will be characterized using atomic force microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. The process of delayed fracturing finds its justification in the rate process concept, and it is expected to answer some of the fundamental questions regarding factors affecting crack propagation and healing. Mathematical description of the contact fatigue process will be sought through constructing a model with individual grains comprised of sub-particles fused together with bonds capable of carrying both forces and moments. Cracking in the model will be simulated by the stress corrosion process causing debonding of sub-particles within the contact regions between grains. The model will mimic the physical behavior of contacts in silica sand.

U-M/SJTU: Mesoporous Carbon-Based Polyanionic Nanocomposite Cathodes for Lithium Ion Batteries. PIs Christian Lastoskie and Professor Junliang Zhang of SJTU. 2015.

LastoskieTo achieve a higher energy density cathode material for lithium ion batteries (LIBs), one can either seek new active materials with higher operating potentials or find materials with higher specific capacities. Both Li3V2(PO4)3 (LVP) and Li2MSiO4 (LMSi, M = Fe, Mn, Co) are capable of delivering on these two points, owing to their high operating potential and high specific capacity (3.8 V/197 mAh/g for LVP; ~4.8 V/~330 mAh/g for LMSi). However, a low intrinsic electronic conductivity hinders their application as a cathode for LIBs. This project will focus on the design and fabrication of mesoporous carbon-based LVP and LMSi nanocomposites as a LIB cathode with a high energy density and a mixed conducting network comprised of a hierarchical porous structure (Figure 1) that enhances conduction of both lithium ions and electrons. Moreover, the nanocomposite framework imparts structural stability during cycling. The PIs will thus pursue a promising pathway for development of high-performance electrodes with low-conductivity active materials for applications in electric vehicles and energy storage. In the collaboration between Prof. Christian Lastoskie and his research group at the University of Michigan (UM) and Prof. Junliang Zhang and his research group at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), LVP and LMSi nanocomposite cathodes will be synthesized, characterized, and tested in coin cells and pouch cells using facilities at both partnering institutions. A facile soft-templating route will be designed for preparation of the LMSi mesoporous nanocomposites, and the impact of cation modification on the LVP composite electrochemical cell performance will be investigated. Additionally, molecular modeling using density functional theory (DFT) and reactive force field molecular dynamics (ReaxFF MD) simulations will be carried out to characterize the solid-electrolyte interphase layer of the nanocomposite cathode and to determine how the interphase composition affects the ionic conductivity of the electrochemical cell.

NSF: Collaborative Research: Towards the Development of A Performance-Based Design Framework for Wind Excited Multi-Story Buildings. PI Seymour Spence. 2015.

SpenceThis project will develop a PBD (performance-based design) framework for multi-story wind excited buildings in order to optimally mitigate structural and non-structural damage. The methodology will explicitly account for the inevitable uncertainty that characterizes all aspects of structural response estimation to natural hazards. This goal will be achieved through the definition of an effective wind building performance model that will rationally assess damage and loss in terms of consequence and fragility functions. To drive the building performance, site-specific wind hazard models will be defined in terms of appropriate intensity measures for a range of wind events, e.g. synoptic winds and hurricanes. By identifying suitable aerodynamic models, interaction parameters will be defined for driving a simulation-centered plastic theorem-based framework that not only yields input engineering demand parameters for performance in wind, but also provides a full portrait of the post-yield behavior of the structural system. In order to achieve systems that optimally satisfy the performance objectives, the wind PBD problem will be formulated as a probabilistic optimization problem. By developing a general solution strategy capable of efficiently handling problems characterized by system-level probabilistic constraints and/or objective functions in terms of high-dimensional design variable vectors, an integrated PBD and optimization methodology will be defined that has the promise to revolutionize current wind engineering practices.

Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA): Life Cycle Assessment Tool for Comparing Alternative Water Distribution Pipe Networks. PI Carol Menassa. 2015.

MenassaThe project will identify and model the economic, environmental, and design performance of three pipe materials (i.e., ductile iron, PVC, and high-density polyethylene) for water distribution pipelines. This objective will be accomplished in two steps: (1) collecting data that includes life-cycle costs (e.g., initial investment cost, operation and maintenance cost, capital replacement cost), environmental impacts (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions, non-renewable resource consumption), and design performances (e.g., deterioration and failure rates) of the three main pipe materials; and (2) developing a life cycle assessment tool that is capable of evaluating and comparing the economic, environmental, and design performances of the three pipe materials for water pipelines, and also selecting the optimum pipe material that best fits decision-makers specific goals.

U-M Third Century Initiative (TCI): Construction as a Stimulus Hub to Advance Research, Practice and Education. PI SangHyun Lee, Co-PIs Vineet Kamat and Carol Menassa. 2015.​

As a stimulus hub, construction industry stakeholders would provide fundamental problems to a diverse group of discipline experts who act as problem solvers. Specifically, graduate students in the Tishman Construction Management Program (TCMP) and other disciplines will be teamed up to conduct a research project with the guidance of an industry coach and academic coaches. Based on the nature of the problem (e.g., a robot that can climb a wall to eliminate a worker working at height), an appropriate discipline (e.g., robotics) will be determined. Then, corresponding graduate students will conduct requirement analysis, cost-benefit analysis and etc. to evaluate possible robot solutions. A graduate student from TCMP will learn the industry-driven problem in detail and see how new science and engineering can help to solve it. This experience naturally provides a student with opportunities to connect new theoretical knowledge with real-world problems, reducing the knowledge and educational gap between the classroom and the field. A graduate student from another discipline (e.g., robotics in this case) will learn what specific functions are required for a new type of robot (e.g., climbing a wall), which can open new research and development area for his/her future research.

DOE/NETL: Impact of microstructure on the containment and migration of CO2 in fractured basalts. PI Daniel Giammar (Washington University in St. Louis), Co-PIs Mark Conradi, Sophia Hayes, Philip Skemer (WUStL) and Brian Ellis (CEE). 2014.

The overall objective of the proposed project is to advance the scientific and technical understanding of microstructure and surface chemistry impacts on the flow and mineralization of CO2 injected into fractured basalt. Fractured basalts are one of the formation types being considered by the DOE for geologic carbon sequestration (GCS). Their most attractive feature is the high concentrations of reactive minerals that contain divalent cations (Ca2+, Mg2+, and Fe2+) that can lead to trapping of CO2 as carbonate mineral precipitates. Because the available pore volume for carbon storage in basalts is primarily in fractures, there is a need to understand the behavior of CO2 in these reservoirs. Further, the dissolution of silicate minerals and precipitation of carbonate minerals can influence the fracture network in ways that may either enhance or inhibit the overall sequestration capacity.

NSF: CPS: Synergy: Collaborative Research: Enhanced Structural Health Monitoring of Civil Infrastructure Systems by Observing and Controlling Loads using Cyber-Physical Systems. PI Jerry Lynch. Co-PI Mingyan Liu (EECS). 2014.

CPS​The economic prosperity of the nation is dependent on vast networks of civil infrastructure systems. Unfortunately, large fractions of these infrastructure systems are rapidly approaching the end of their intended design lives. The national network of highway bridges is especially vulnerable to age-based deterioration as revealed by recent catastrophic bridge collapses in the United States. Two major bottlenecks currently exist that severely limit the effectiveness of existing bridge health management methods. First, the causal relationship between repeated truck loading and long-term structural deterioration is not well understood. Second, current management methods are reliant on visual inspections which only provide qualitative information regarding bridge health and introduce subjectivity in post-inspection decision making. This project aims to resolve these major bottlenecks by advancing a cyber-physical system (CPS) designed to monitor the health of highway bridges, control the loads imposed on bridges by heavy trucks, and provide visual inspectors with quantitative information for data-driven bridge health assessments. The CPS framework created will have enormous impact on the national economy by enhancing public safety while dramatically improving the cost-effectiveness of infrastructure management methods. The project will also create publically available graduate-level course curricula focused on CPS technology and engages inner-city middle-school students from underrepresented groups to prepare them to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

NSF: CyberSEES: TYPE 2: Sustainably Unlocking Energy from Municipal Solid Waste Using a Sensor-Driven Cyber-Infrastructure Framework. PI Dimitrios Zekkos. Co-PIs Jerry Lynch and Edwin Olson (EECS). 2014.

Our nation's practices in managing the growing amounts of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) that are generated every year are unsustainable. The majority of MSW generated every year is still disposed of in landfills despite national and international efforts aimed to increase recycling. In modern landfills, MSW is treated as a material to be isolated and contained. Current MSW management strategies cause sub-optimal degradation of landfill waste resulting in the generation of biogases (primarily methane and carbon dioxide) that are mostly flared, vented or leaked to the atmosphere where they remain as greenhouse gases (GHG). As a result, landfills represent the second largest anthropogenic source of methane in the US. Fortunately, MSW has high energy potential that remains virtually untapped as a national energy resource. The overarching goal of this research is to revolutionize how MSW is managed to provide a transformative means of extracting utility-scale energy from waste using next-generation facilities to be termed Sustainable Energy Reactor Facilities (SERFs). This paradigm-shift is only recently possible through the adoption of innovative computing technologies such as high-performance computing for multi-domain process modeling, low-cost autonomous sensor networks, and unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs), all synergistically integrated within a customized cyber-environment. This integration of in-situ SERF observation with high-performance computing allows the energy generation capacity of SERF to be maximized resulting in lower cost energy production with a dramatic reduction in GHG and carbon footprint compared to traditional dry-tomb landfills.

NSF: Post-Earthquake Aerial Reconnaissance of Geotechnical Engineering Systems. PI Dimitrios Zekkos, Co-PIs Jerry Lynch and Vineet Kamat. 2014.

The Tohoku (2011), Christchurch (2011), and Canterbury (2010) Earthquakes affected two nations known for their pioneering advances in earthquake engineering; yet both nations experienced extreme levels of destruction. These events are poignant reminders that many lessons are yet to be learned to ensure we can engineer truly resilient communities. Post-earthquake reconnaissance missions are absolutely vital to the experience-based learning process required to advance our understanding of natural hazards and their impact on geotechnical systems. While post-earthquake reconnaissance has provided a wealth of learning experiences, current practices suffer from drawbacks due to inefficiencies in manual collection of large perishable datasets, high costs associated with deployment of teams, accessibility limitations, and safety considerations. Unmanned Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (UAAVs), using the latest technological and computational tools available, will enable engineers to collect higher quality, more objective, and more extensive perishable datasets on the performance of geotechnical systems during reconnaissance missions. This project paves the way for the use of UAAV technology for extreme-event reconnaissance of geotechnical systems. The societal benefits associated with UAAV-based post-event reconnaissance are significant and include more effective learning from disasters abroad before they hit our nation, more efficient post-event responses leading to more resilient civil infrastructure systems, and quicker economic recovery of affected regions.

NSF CAREER: Non-traditional Materials Application for Seismic and Wind Loads. PI Jason McCormick. 2014.

Dynamic loads acting on steel structures, such as those caused by earthquake or wind events, have caused significant structural and/or non-structural damage bringing into question the resiliency and robustness of these structures. The goal of this project is to enhance passive damping in steel structures spanning from low-rise systems to tall buildings through applications of non-traditional civil engineering materials (foams, rubbers, etc.). Customized and controlled energy dissipation throughout the structure will ensure the safety and serviceability of buildings subjected to wind and seismic loads. The application of non-traditional materials to multiple loading scenarios can lead to long-term welfare, economic prosperity, and safety of communities due to a more homogenized design of structures that provides an optimal performance regardless of the loading or building configuration. The cross-disciplinary nature of this concept also provides a unique opportunity to increase awareness of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields in young, diverse, and impressionable elementary school students through the development of education modules in conjunction with elementary school teachers. The project will promote creativity in engineering students and influence practitioners in future design of buildings.

U-M Water Center: Assessing the assessment tool: Developing improved modeling frameworks for evaluating hydraulic fracturing water withdrawals in Michigan. PI Brian Ellis, Co-PI Avery Demond. 2014.

Recent high-volume hydraulic fracturing activity in Michigan has drawn attention to inadequacies of Michigan’s water withdrawal assessment tool in capturing the impact of transient large-volume water withdrawals on nearby streams. Large quantity groundwater withdrawals may reduce flow in groundwater-fed streams, possibly resulting in impaired stream water quality and negative impacts on aquatic organism health. As such, the State of Michigan requires that applicants seeking to develop wells for large-volume water withdrawals use an online screening tool to evaluate potential adverse resource impacts on streams prior to permitting the new well. The goal of this work is to assess the adequacy of the online screening tool to evaluate the impacts of hydraulic fracturing-related water withdrawals on surface water bodies and residential water supply wells. We will examine a field site in Northern Michigan where a proposed withdrawal of up to 210 million gallons of water is planned in conjunction with the hydraulic fracturing of six natural gas wells in the Utica-Collingwood shale. A key output of this study will be the development of a detailed hydrologic model to investigate the impact of the proposed withdrawals on local freshwater resources. Two outcomes resulting from this modeling effort will be: (1) evaluation of the effectiveness of the existing water withdrawal assessment tool in predicting adverse resource impacts associated with short-term large quantity water withdrawals and (2) incorporation of cutting-edge modeling tools in UM freshwater curriculum.

U-M Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT): Opening the Classroom to the Profession: Assessment of Web-Based Class Projects on Student Learning. PI Dimitrios Zekkos. 2014.

Engineering students learn better when they feel that the course content will be useful in their career, it relates to engineering practice and, it has an impact to the profession and society (e.g., Burn and Holloway 2006, Davis and Finelli 2007, Winter 2007). The PI has been exploring strategies to better integrate the classroom content with engineering reality as a strategy for improving student learning and for engaging students to the class and its deliverables. Many classes in the upper-level undergraduate and graduate Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) course curriculum include a class project. Class projects provide an opportunity for students to explore a course topic in more depth than would be otherwise possible by the allotted course time. Class projects provide a unique opportunity for students to independently think and cultivate their judgment. “Conventional” project deliverables typically involve a report that is corrected by the instructor and an oral presentation to the classroom. Recent studies on education research indicate that students learn better when their class projects are visible and reviewed by a broader audience rather than by the instructor of the course only (Moy et al. 2010).

DOE Climate and Environmental Sciences Division: Understanding the Response of Photosynthetic Metabolism in Tropical Forests to Seasonal Climate Variation. PI Dennis G. Dye (U.S. Geological Survey), Co-PIs Valeriy Ivanov (CEE), Scott R. Saleska (University of Arizona) and Alfredo Huete (University of Technology, Australia). 2014.


Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Michigan, the University of Arizona and the University of Technology Sydney (Australia) are collaborating with scientists in Brazil on a 3-year research project in support of the Department of Energy’s Green Ocean Amazon (GOAmazon) experiment. The project investigates a basic yet unanswered question in Earth system and global carbon cycle science: What controls the response of photosynthesis in Amazon tropical forests to seasonal variations in climate? This question, despite its apparent simplicity, is the subject of an ongoing scientific puzzle that has so far been remarkably difficult to resolve with confidence. The project is designed to resolve current disagreements by developing new knowledge and deeper understanding of seasonal climate-photosynthesis and water relations in Amazon tropical forests. The project focuses on existing tropical forest study sites near Manaus and Santarem, Brazil. The results from the research project will help guide improvements in the treatment of tropical forest photosynthesis and water-related processes in Earth system models, and help establish a foundation for the planned Next Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE) in the Tropics.

NSF CAREER: Multi-Level Occupancy Intervention, Simulation and Education for Energy Reduction in Existing Buildings. PI Carol Menassa. 2014.

Despite significant advances in technology, existing buildings are still the highest consumers of energy and emitters of harmful greenhouse gases. While it is argued that education and information sharing are appropriate occupancy intervention strategies for energy reduction, no empirical research has been done to understand: how different building occupants respond to intervention strategies; what occupancy characteristics influence this response; how to supplement education with other strategies to achieve long term energy reduction; and how simulation can be used to develop a functional and educational environment for building stakeholders. The goal of this CAREER proposal is to address this gap in research and education to achieve a fundamental understanding of what occupancy characteristics and social relationships play a key mediation role to induce significant energy use reduction in buildings.

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