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.