NC State Constructed Facilities Lab tests materials and designs


Before launching construction projects, agencies from around the globe turn to the Constructed Facilities Laboratory (CFL) at North Carolina State University (NC State ) to test the limits of their materials and designs.

Asian reports the CFL has been one of the busiest research facilities in the United States to focus on structural engineering and innovative construction materials and systems. The lab is currently engaged in more than 20 funded research projects, and its work has been financed by agencies ranging from the National Science Foundation to the NC Department of Transportation – as well as a host of private companies and foreign countries from Korea to France.

The CFL designs experiments that test innovative construction designs and materials at full scale. For example, instead of testing a small sample, they have the tools and expertise to test a 42-foot reinforced concrete wall panel – subjecting it to extreme conditions to see how much abuse it can take before it breaks. Once they know the limits of new designs and materials, engineers can use them with confidence.

The CFL is equipped to test just about anything. CFL experts can simulate earthquakes, expose a structure to extreme temperatures, and see just how much weight a structure can take. “We can easily apply two million pounds of force,” says Greg Lucier, the CFL’s lab manager.

More importantly, CFL’s faculty and staff know how to use its tools to simulate real world conditions. For example, they can simultaneously expose a bridge piling to extreme heat or cold, the pushing and pulling of wind, salt water, and an extreme load of weight. That’s important, because it tells bridge builders exactly how the structure would behave in extreme real-world conditions.

The CFL team has worked on innovative structural designs and materials used across the country: from the reinforcements used in the foundations of the Freedom Tower in New York, to the massive wooden “glulam” beams in the new terminal at RDU airport. CFL has even worked with electric utilities to develop means of reinforcing existing nuclear power facilities.

“The key is innovation,” says Dr. Sami Rizkalla, director of the CFL. “New materials and techniques can make projects safer and more cost-effective. But before we use them, we need to know they are safe.” Read More.


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