The Department of Civil Engineering is housed in the Faculty of Engineering and has exceptionally well equipped laboratories.
Our strong research profile is sustained by world class laboratories and equipment offering students and researchers access to a wide range of experimental facilities, analytical software and associated technical expertise. Some examples of the facilities available for research are given below.
We welcome enquiries from industrialists who might wish to use our test facilities and we can offer access to these facilities through a university owned company called BEELAB.
The Earthquake and Large Structures laboratory (EQUALS) is a unique facility within the UK. The laboratory houses the largest 6 axis shaking table in the UK and this table is used to test the performance of buildings, bridges, foundations and other structures under seismic loading.
The shaking table comprises a 3m by 3m platform supported by 8 hydraulic actuators. The table can carry up to 15 tonnes and (depending on the loading) can reach acceleration levels up to about 5g with peak displacements of ±150mm which makes it idea for testing specimens to destruction. The behaviour of the specimens can be recorded using accelerometers, displacement transducers, load cells and strain gages and other types of sensor. Typically between 50 and 100 sensors are used to measure the performance of the specimens.
An important practical application of the shaking table is seismic qualification testing of electro-mechanical plant. Such testing provides additional income which supports the continued operation of the shaking table research applications. A number of seismic qualification tests have been done on the EERC shaking table for various clients. These have included tests on rubber vibration isolation bearings for an overhead pipebridge and tests of valves, pumps and other equipment for a stand-by generator set.
The structures testing facilities in the Department are split into two distinct types to allow testing of a wide variety of different structural forms. We have a number of large frames for specialist testing and in addition the lab contains a number of smaller test machines used for more standard testing.
A self-reacting steel frame of 120 tonne load capacity has been built ad hoc to house road bridge specimens up to 8 metres long and almost 4 metres (roughly the width of a traffic lane) wide. The facility has been designed to apply, to any bridge specimen that it accommodates, the full levels of fatigue loads over the actual numbers of fatigue cycles specified in current structural design codes for bridges. Tyre effects are simulated via pulsating loads on the specimen from a network of servo-hydraulic actuators connected to the frame. By programming the actuators to operate sequentially, the movement of an entire lorry along the bridge may be closely approximated. Currently, a bridge specimen comprising a light, corrosion-resistant, modular fibre reinforced polymer deck adhesively bonded to pre-tensioned concrete beams is being subjected to ten million fatigue load cycles within the frame.
A 100 tonne capacity frame for pilot tests on beam-type specimens up to almost 5 metres long exists. For example, this frame was recently used to test the concept of a novel green form of construction entailing a limecrete (lime concrete) slab connected to timber beams via timber studs.
In addition to the reconfigurable test area the Department has a comprehensive range of test machines with capacities from 4 tonnes to 600 tonnes. All the test machines use a common Instron controller allowing researchers to easily move between machines as their research demands. The majority of the test machines can apply both tensile and compressive dynamic loading to specimens. The Department also has an unique dynamic test machine that incorporates a high capacity torsion loading section which allows unusual connections to be loaded to failure.
The structures laboratories house test machines with capacities from 4 to 600 tonnes capable of testing evertthing from full size bridge decks down to small custom connections.
The Department has a range of materials testing machines that can be used to test everything from soils, masonry, concrete, timber, steel, plastics and composites of all types. In many cases the specimens can also be testing with environmental chambers to investigate the effects of temperature, frost etc on the materials. These facilities are used by students and academics to develop materials models to help explain how materials behave and how they will respond to the environmental conditions the materials will experience when used in engineering structures. For example these machines have recently been used to investigate the cyclic behaviour of corroded reinforcement bars that have been found in some bridge piers around the world.
The Department has a large well equipped hydraulics laboratory with a wide range of experimental facilities for both teaching and research. The total area of the lab is more than 310m2 and the facilities include:
There is a range of instruments to measure velocity, pressure, temperature, turbidity, wave height, etc. that can be moved between experiments. There are numerous submersible pumps and various tanks are available to develop new experiments.
The geotechnics laboratories comprise a suite of temperature-controlled laboratories for research, project work and class teaching in fundamental and geomechanics. The laboratories are equipped to carry out the normal range of geotechnical tests (routine strength, compressibility, permeability, index tests, etc.). In addition there is a temperature- and humidity-controlled sample store.
The research laboratories contain a suite of advanced strength and stiffness test equipment as follows:
The geomechanics laboratories are temperature controlled facilities containing equipment for both small and large strain soils characterization. The facilities also cater for long term testing as well as high speed dynamic testing.
For field based measurements of rainfall, water flow, water quality etc. the Department has a range of specialist field measurement equipment.
The Department has access to a wide range of hardware and software computing facilities. Although much of our research uses custom software written in-house there are also a variety of specialist software packages available to students and staff.
For most needs high end PCs are adequate and these can be used to run structural analysis, foundation modelling, flood modelling, traffic simulations, systems modelling etc. However in some cases, such as detailed flood inundation modelling of large catchment areas and cities, more powerful computing facilities are needed.
If this is the case members of the Department can use the High Performance Computer (HPC) facility in the University. The HPC facility is housed in a unique, state-of-the-art machine room and is designed to be energy-efficient. The room makes use of advanced remote management equipment and is fitted with a leading-edge air-conditioning solution, which uses energy-efficient, water-cooled racks. The BlueCrystal computer is one of the fastest and largest computers of its kind in the UK, able to carry out more than 37 trillion calculations a second. The state-of-the-art system enables researchers to undertake research requiring either very large amounts of data to be processed or lengthy computations to be carried out.
BlueCrystal Phase 2 has the following specification:
All staff and students in the Department have access to HPC facilities and state-of-the-art software to support their research activities.