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The Friction Pendulum System enables buildings to ride out an earthquake by gently swaying back and forth. The system is incorporated into this six-story model, a test structure that researchers will study using a shake table at the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research.
Credit: National Center For Earthquake Engineering Research

Title: What Role Do Engineers Play in National Security?
Whether they are natural or at the hands of an enemy, threats to our safety can be detected and thwarted by the products of engineering.

Engineers are actively developing tools to provide the earliest possible warning of biological and chemical threats and assaults on critical equipment and infrastructure. From "labs on a computer chip" that look for thousands of molecules at a time to sensors that detect faulty wiring in airplanes, engineers are crafting devices that address a wide range of early warning needs.

In the event of an earthquake, bombing or other crisis, the structural integrity of buildings, infrastructure and lifeline systems is critical. To address this need, engineers craft test beds to learn the effects of devastating forces on the walls of structures, utility lines and municipal structures, ultimately applying the knowledge to design stronger buildings, robust service systems and a stable overall infrastructure.

As a disaster unfolds, engineers contribute to emergency management through the use of myriad devices and efficient approaches to coordinate efforts. From robots that explore crushed homes or bolster collapsed buildings to technologies that limit cascading failures in electric power networks, these technologies respond to all manner of threat.

How Do Engineers Strengthen the Economy? [Next]