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Monday, 5 September 2011

Engineers test effects of fire on steel structures, nuclear plant design

Purdue University
Sept 1, 2011

Ten years after 9/11, researchers at Purdue University are continuing work that could lead to safer steel structures such as buildings and bridges and also an emerging type of nuclear power plant design.

"I want people to understand that in the last 10 years we've not been quiet," said Amit Varma, a Purdue associate professor of civil engineering. "We've been working to make structures better and safer."

The researchers are using a custom heating system and a specialized laboratory for testing large beams and other components and have created models that could be used in designs to improve fire safety.

New findings are detailed in two research papers appearing this month as part of a special 9/11 issue of the American Society of Civil Engineers' Journal of Structural Engineering. The work has been led by Varma, doctoral student Lisa Choe and graduate student Emily Wellman.

Data will be used to potentially update design codes for steel structures and to test and verify computational building-design models.

The work is funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology, the American Institute of Steel Construction, and the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Building fires may reach temperatures of 1,000 degrees Celsius, or more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, and the strength of steel structures drops by about 40 percent when exposed to temperatures exceeding 500 degrees Celsius.
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