October 1, 2004
If terrorists strike again, lives and buildings could be spared with bomb- and impact-resistant buildings constructed using concepts being developed by researchers at the University of Missouri-Rolla.
“Such designs will reduce, and in some cases prevent, serious damage to structures resulting from terrorist bomb attacks,” says Dr. Jason Baird, research assistant professor at UMR’s Rock Mechanics and Explosives Research Center (RMERC). “Lives will be saved and the intensity of injuries will be reduced within these protected structures.”
UMR is working with Kontek Industries of New Madrid, MO, and the University of Missouri-Columbia (UMC) to develop blast-resistant technologies. This project is receiving $2.4 million from the Department of Defense for research, engineering development and deployment of blast-resistant structuresand construction standards for homeland defense, says Dr. Baird.
He and his team of researchers are developing the technology necessary to make buildings blast-resistant. In a related project with Kontek, they have created steel-reinforced concrete barriers that link to form a barricade that can resist a 200-pound trinitrotoluene (TNT) blast, followed by the impact of a 20,000-pound truck traveling at 50 miles per hour, says Dr. Baird. Kontek now offers this barrier system to industry and government agencies. So far, 12 nuclear electric power generating stations and two U.S. national laboratories have purchased barrier systems from Kontek, he adds.
Using this technology, he and his colleagues are integrating concepts used to develop the blast-resistant barriers into the actual design and architecture of a building, bridge, monument or other structure.
Prior to the barriers recently designed by UMR and Kontek, barriers were not blast-resistant and were only effective against an impact such as stopping a vehicle trying to ram through them, says Dr. Baird. “The farther away you are from the blast, the safer, but in big cities where buildings sit right on top of each other, distance is not an option,” he says. “Something is needed to stop the blast before it destroys the structure and everything surrounding it.”
UMR researchers from RMERC and civil engineering will work with architects and environmental designers at UMC and UMC’s National Center for Explosion Resistant Design to make the blast-resistant barriers aesthetically pleasing and ergonomical. Once the research is completed, Kontek plans to use the design to build bomb- or blast-resistant infrastructure.
“As far as I know, this will be the first time anyone has attempted to combine the efforts of explosives engineers, structural engineers, environmental designers and architects in this manner,” says Dr. Baird.