Department Research Projects

SE Professors Win Coveted Defense University Research Instrumentation Program Grant

Professor Ken Loh, Ph.D. Professor J.S. ChenXiaolong He, PhD StudentKaran Taneja, PhD StudentYun-An Lin, Masters StudentXinlun Zhao, Masters Student

January 2020

The Department of Defense (DoD) recently announced that Professors Ken Loh and J.S. Chen and their proposal titled “Warfighter Digital Twin for Prehabilitation: Integration of Full-Field Motion Capture with Emerging Wearables and Bio-Physical Modeling” was selected for funding among 724 proposals submitted to the program (read more here).

The Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) supports the purchase of major research equipment to advance or establish new capabilities. This grant will allow Professors Loh and Chen to acquire a Vicon optical motion capture system for capturing 3D human kinematic motions, which will be housed in Structural Engineering and the Jacobs School of Engineering Center for Extreme Events Research (CEER) in the SME Building. The addition of the Vicon system will fundamentally enhance capabilities and support a larger effort focused on warfighter protection and performance enhancement. The 3D image capture system will be immediately used and will serve as a rich test bed for validating new human performance sensing (and wearable) technologies and for generating high-resolution image frames that are tailored advanced musculoskeletal system modeling.

Prof. Loh leads the ARMOR Lab, and his group focuses on engineering stimuli-responsive materials, such as nanocomposite wearable sensors. Prof. Chen is a world-renowned expert in multi-scale, multi-physics, and data-driven numerical simulation methods with specialization in meshfree modeling. This grant will further enhance collaborations between the PIs, as well as with DoD and Navy labs in the greater San Diego area.

Solar Thermal Soil Improvement over Different Depths

Professor John McCartney, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE Radhavi Samarakoon, M.S., PhD Candidate
January 2020

This Early-concept Grant Exploratory Research (EAGER) project (Award No: 1941571) addresses the geotechnical engineering research needed to assess the feasibility of using solar thermal energy to improve the mechanical properties of soft soil deposits over different depth ranges. Specifically, heated fluid collected from solar thermal panels circulated through closed-loop geothermal heat exchangers in the subsurface is used to induce thermal volumetric contraction and a corresponding increase in shear strength of a targeted zone of soil. Arrays of geothermal heat exchangers in vertical and horizontal configurations will be investigated to improve soil over different depth ranges and areal distributions.

Advantages of this approach are that soil improvement can be gained in a targeted manner using renewable energy, after which the geothermal heat exchangers can be used for long-term underground thermal energy storage, yielding cost savings when compared to available soft soil improvement technologies.

The research plan seeks to better understand fundamental processes governing the thermal volume change of soft soils over different depth ranges and to improve constitutive models for soft soils needed in advanced computer simulations, addressing the NSF mission “to promote the progress of science”. If feasible, solar thermal energy and geothermal heat exchangers will be important tools for the cost-effective improvement of challenging soft soil deposits encountered in civil infrastructure projects, offshore or river sediments, mine tailings dams, and coal ash impoundments.

This project will introduce undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds to research through established summer programs at UCSD like STARS and ENLACE.

PEER-CEA Project

Professor Tara Hutchinson, Ph.D., P.E.Brandon Schiller, M.S., PhD CandidateSergio Suarez, M.S., PhD Student
January 2020

The California Earthquake Authority awarded a $3.4 million contact to the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER) to evaluate the seismic performance of wood-frame residential homes. The project works to improve the seismic resiliency of California’s housing stock as well as quantify how houses perform under earthquakes. A comprehensive experimental study was taken at UC San Diego and UC Berkeley to investigate the damage to cripple walls and sill anchorage, which are critical components of wood-frame houses. Cripple walls are short wood stud walls that enclose a crawl space under the first floor of a house. In total, twenty-eight experiments were performed at UCSD, focusing on a large variety of attributes found in cripple walls in California.