Civil and Environmental Engineering

School of Engineering

Research and Innovation Initiatives

Earthquake Engineering (Civil)
Rensselaer’s earthquake engineering research program is concerned with seismic analysis and design methodologies that mitigate the negative impact of earthquakes on buildings, bridges, and pipelines (water, sewer, gas, and oil). It also focuses on analytical relationships that support decision-making and advance the state of the art in design codes, a key to future sustainability and durability. In these areas, Rensselaer’s earthquake engineering research is among the best in the world. The Institute has a major geotechnical centrifuge facility and a 1 g shaking table for structural system testing. The geotechnical centrifuge facility, fourth largest in the U.S. and among the 20 largest in the world, has in-flight 2-D shaking and robotic capabilities. Both the centrifuge and the shaking table are the major experimental components of CEES (Center for Earthquake Engineering Simulation), a School of Engineering Interdisciplinary Research Center (see Center for Earthquake Engineering Simulation). CEES is one of the 15 experimental nodes of NEES (Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation), an NSF Collaboratory initiative aimed at revolutionizing earthquake engineering research in the United States.

Structural Engineering (Civil)
Design and analysis of bridges, buildings, and other large-scale facilities; material selection and specification; structural technology selection; dynamic and static structural modeling and analysis; environmental loads on structures.

Geotechnical Engineering (Civil)
Behavior of soils and foundations under cyclic and dynamic loads; design methods to accommodate natural and man-made vibrations; geostochastics; soil dynamics, stability of earth slopes, structures, and dams, geoenvironmental engineering, landfill design, groundwater and groundwater contaminant transport, geotechnical centrifuge modeling, blasting, and disaster recovery.

Transportation Engineering (Civil)
This area of research includes design, analysis, maintenance, and operation of transportation systems and facilities; intelligent transportation systems, especially highway networks, goods distribution systems, and transit systems; real-time, multiobjective network management and control, including route guidance and dynamic traffic assignment; signal control systems; network management strategies; multiobjective routing and scheduling; and logistics decision making under uncertainty.

Computational Mechanics (Civil)
Studies involve the development of automated finite element modeling techniques, adaptive analysis procedures, development of adaptive multiscale solution techniques, qualification and modeling of engineering idealizations for analysis and design, design systems using knowledge-base techniques, prototype systems for applications including discrete crack propagation, and multiple-scale modeling of concrete materials.

Pollutant Fate and Transport (Environmental)
Research areas are assessment of pathogen loading and transport in water supplies and treatment systems, fate of hydrophobic organics in sediment, environmental chemistry of PAHs, molecular modeling in environmental chemistry, and structure activity relationships.

Water Treatment (Environmental)
Researchers investigate the influence of natural organic matter properties and water chemistry on the formation of disinfection byproducts, understanding fouling mechanisms in the use of membrane processes in water treatment, membrane modifications for water treatment, adsorption processes and hybrid processes for removal of DBP precursors.

Site Remediation and Bioremediation (Environmental)
Research areas include combined advanced oxidation and biological treatment for sediment and soil slurry systems, in-situ degradation of chlorinated organics in groundwater, and solid phase treatment reactors for soils, slurries, and municipal solid wastes.

Research Facilities
Rensselaer’s centrifuge was commissioned in 1989 and began conducting physical model simulations of soil and soil structure systems subjected to in-flight earthquake shaking in 1991. In over a decade of successful operation, the facility has published results of some 500 earthquake-related model simulations, served as the basis for many M.S. and Ph.D. theses at Rensselaer, and contributed to Institute faculty and student research as well as that of dozens of visiting scholars and outside users from around the world. Recently the centrifuge facility was upgraded to a 150 g-ton overall capacity and enhanced with Web-based teleobservation and teleoperation wireless sensors, as part of its integration into NEES (Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation), a national NSF-supported Collaboratory. Two modern telecontrol and teleconference rooms located close to the centrifuge facilitate collaboration and real-time experiments with the rest of NEES through a high-speed Internet connection. The geotechnical centrifuge is currently a main part of CEES, a School of Engineering Interdisciplinary Research Center.

The Rensselaer 1 g seismic shaking table, located in the Jonsson Engineering Center High Bay Laboratory, is utilized to evaluate the behavior of scale-model structures subjected to dynamic loading. The shaking table, 1.6 m x 2.6 m in plan, is driven by a servo-controlled hydraulic actuator and is capable of reproducing a variety of input motions, including random motion for system identification testing and historical earthquake records for seismic testing. A variety of dynamic measurement sensors are available in the laboratory along with a spectrum analyzer and data acquisition system to process and record the measured signals.

A major upgrade in lab equipment and space for environmental engineering research and teaching has occurred through the establishment of the Keck Water Quality Laboratory, the National Science Foundation Environmental Colloid and Particle Laboratory, and the refurbishment of the Environmental Engineering Teaching Laboratory suite. Analytical equipment in these labs provides the capability for analysis and investigation of a wide variety of industrial processes, treatment processes, and polluted environments. This equipment gives students experience and expertise in treatability and toxicity studies, design and operation of bench-scale treatment systems, and investigation of a wide range of environmental quality parameters. The fate of specific compounds in the environment and in treatment processes can be analyzed by UV-VIS spectrophotometry, high pressure liquid chromatography, gas-liquid and gas chromatography with a number of specific and sensitive detectors, including electron capture, flame ionization, thermal conductivity, and mass spectral. Metals analyses by atomic absorption spectrophotometry and elemental analyses are also available. A complete suite of water quality monitoring equipment, field sampling systems, and geographical information system tools are available. Computational capabilities are widely accessible not only throughout the campus, but also in research laboratories, as well.