BUFFALO, N.Y. – How do you prevent an earthquake from
destroying expensive computer systems?
That’s the question earthquake engineer Claudia
Marin-Artieda, PhD, associate professor of civil engineering at
Howard University, aims to answer through a series of experiments
conducted at the University at Buffalo.
“The loss of functionality of essential equipment and
components can have a disastrous impact. We can limit these sorts
of equipment losses by improving their seismic performance,”
said Marin-Artieda, who earned her doctorate from UB in 2007.
· Here is
a video of one of the tests, which mimics 80 percent of the force
of 1994's Northridge earthquake: http://bit.ly/1lyO1aZ.
In buildings such as data centers, power plants and hospitals,
it could be catastrophic to have highly-sensitive equipment
swinging, rocking, falling and generally bashing into things.
In high-seismic regions, new facilities often are engineered
with passive protective systems that provide overall seismic
protection. But often, existing facilities are conventional,
fixed-base buildings in which seismic demands on sensitive
equipment located within are significantly amplified. In such
buildings, sensitive equipment needs to be secured from these
damaging earthquake effects, Marin-Artieda said.
The stiffer the building, the greater the magnification of
seismic effects, she added.
"It is like when you are riding a rollercoaster,” she
said. “If your body is relaxed, you don’t feel strong
inertial effects. But if you hold your body rigid, you’ll
feel the inertial effects much more, and you’ll get knocked
about in the car.”
The experiments were conducted this month at the University at
Buffalo’s Network for Earthquake
Engineering Simulation (NEES), a shared network of laboratories
based at Purdue University.
Marin-Artieda and her team used different devices for supporting
40 computer servers donated by Yahoo Labs. The researchers attached
the servers to a frame in multiple configurations on seismically
isolated platforms. They then subjected the frame to a variety of
three-directional ground motions with the servers in partial
operation to monitor how they react to an earthquake
Preliminary work confirmed, among other things, that globally
and locally installed seismic isolation and damping systems can
significantly reduce damage to computer systems and other
Base isolation is a technique that sets objects atop an
energy-absorbing base; damping employs energy-absorbing devices
within the object to be protected from an earthquake’s
Marin-Artieda plans to expand the research by developing a
framework for analysis, design and implementation of the protective
The research is funded by the National Science Foundation. In
addition to Yahoo Labs, industry partners include Seismic
Foundation Control Inc., The VMC Group, Minus K Technology Inc.,
Base Isolation of Alaska, and Roush Industries Inc. All provided
in-kind materials for the experiments.