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Award Abstract #0936602

NEESR-CR: Seismically Induced Rock-Slope Failure: Mechanisms and Prediction

Div Of Civil, Mechanical, & Manufact Inn
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Initial Amendment Date: August 5, 2009
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Latest Amendment Date: June 28, 2011
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Award Number: 0936602
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Award Instrument: Standard Grant
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Program Manager: Richard J. Fragaszy
CMMI Div Of Civil, Mechanical, & Manufact Inn
ENG Directorate For Engineering
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Start Date: January 1, 2010
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End Date: October 31, 2011 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $975,112.00
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Investigator(s): Joseph Wartman wartman@uw.edu (Principal Investigator)
Mary MacLaughlin (Co-Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: Drexel University
1505 Race St, 8th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102-1119 (215)895-5849
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Program Reference Code(s): 036E, 037E, 041E, 043E, 1057, 1576, 7974, 9179, CVIS
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Program Element Code(s): 7396, 7680


This award is an outcome of the NSF 09-524 program solicitation ''George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) Research (NEESR)'' competition and includes Drexel University (lead institution) and Montana Tech of The University of Montana (subaward). This project will utilize the NEES equipment site at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

Worldwide, seismically induced rock-slope failures have been responsible for approximately 30% of the most significant landslide catastrophes of the past century. They are among the most common, dangerous, and still today, least understood of all seismic hazards. Rock-slope failures differ fundamentally in two key respects from landslides in unconsolidated, soil materials: (i) rock-slope stability is controlled principally by discontinuities in the rock mass and (ii) owing to their potentially large volumes, high velocities, long travel distances, and impact forces, the consequences of rock-slope failures can be severe. These consequences routinely include burying of roadways and canals, collapse of structures, and formation of landslide debris dams.

While earthquake-induced soil landslides have been well studied, there is remarkably little fundamental research on the more common and often more significant problem of rock-slope stability under seismic conditions. The limited understanding of this topic largely relates to the challenges of interpreting these complex, large displacement landslides in order to gain a better understand the triggering processes. As a result, the current state-of-the-practice for assessing the seismic stability of rock-slopes lags behind that of soil slopes and typically involves either qualitative assessments (i.e., relative hazard assessment using descriptive parameters) or highly simplified quantitative analyses (i.e., pseudostatic methods). Neither of these approaches captures the key mechanisms driving rock-slope failure, or the consequences of failure. This research seeks to substantially advance the fundamental understanding of the rock-slope failure process under seismic conditions through a fully integrated program of physical and discrete element method numerical simulations. The resulting improved knowledge will drive the development of improved rock-slope failure assessment guidelines, analysis procedures, and predictive tools. In addition to markedly improving the basic understanding of seismic rock-slope failures, this research will drive the shift from currently employed qualitative assessment procedures to modern performance- and risk-based methodologies.

The project entails collaboration and student exchanges between a primarily undergraduate institution, a research university, and an international partner, the Universidad Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) in Barcelona, Spain. Other impacts of this work include development of educational materials aimed at improving the understanding of engineering and science among the general public, preparation of modules for incorporating physical models in the engineering curriculum. Data from this project will be archived and made available to the public through the NEES data repository.


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