• Fire hazardReducing fire hazards from materials

    Fire researchers will tell you that there’s a simple solution for reducing fire hazards: eliminate flammable materials. If it doesn’t burn, the experts say, then there won’t be a fire. Of course, that option isn’t very practical or realistic; after all, who wants to sit on a block of cement when you can have a cushiony recliner? NIST offers a better strategy for reducing the thousands of deaths and injuries and billions of dollars in damage resulting from the more than a million fires each year in the United States.

  • Earthquake survivalEngineers solve the 500-year-old Leaning Tower of Pisa mystery

    Why has the Leaning Tower of Pisa survived the strong earthquakes that have hit the region since the middle ages? After studying available seismological, geotechnical and structural information, researchers concluded that the survival of the Tower can be attributed to a phenomenon known as dynamic soil-structure interaction (DSSI).

  • The Big OneNext California's Big One could kill hundreds, cause $100 billion in losses, trap 20,000 in elevators

    What will happen when the next big earthquake hits northern California? Researchers say that if a tremor similar in magnitude to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake were to hit today, it could kill 800 people, cause more than $100 billion in economic losses from the shaking and subsequent fires, and trap roughly 20,000 people in elevators across northern California.

  • FloodsArtificial levees on Mississippi River dramatically increased extreme floods

    A new study has revealed for the first time the last 500-year flood history of the Mississippi River. It shows a dramatic rise in the size and frequency of extreme floods in the past century—mostly due to projects to straighten, channelize, and bound the river with artificial levees. The new research also uncovered a clear pattern over the centuries linking flooding on the Mississippi with natural fluctuations of Pacific and Atlantic Ocean water temperatures.

  • Earthquakes“Shape memory” metals for earthquake-resistant construction

    Researchers have found an economical way to improve the properties of some “shape memory” metals, known for their ability to return to their original shape after being deformed. The method could make way for the mass production of these improved metals for a variety of applications, including earthquake-resistant construction materials.

  • EarthquakesFederal funding boosts West Coast’s ShakeAlert system

    The University of Oregon has received $1 million from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to help strengthen the state’s monitoring and disaster-preparation efforts. The funds will be used to install, maintain and operate additional seismic-monitoring sites throughout Oregon, and for engaging pilot users of the ShakeAlert system and the public.

  • Safer buildings20-story earthquake-safe buildings made from wood

    Engineering researchers are putting a two-story wooden structure through a series of powerful earthquake simulations, using a lab shake table. The goal is to gather the data required to design wood buildings as tall as twenty stories that do not suffer significant damage during large earthquakes.

  • STEM educationYoung engineers pedal their way to underwater dominance

    What do a shark, coffin and ice cream cone have in common? They’re all student-built, human-powered submarines—and they competed in the 14th biennial International Submarine Races (ISR), recently held at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Carderock Division, in Bethesda, Maryland. ISR is a biennial event where participants design, build and race one- or two-person, human-powered submarines down a 328-feet underwater course in the David Taylor Model Basin.

  • Building safetyGrenfell fire aftermath: how 20th-century buildings can be made safer, not more dangerous

    By Laura B Alvarez

    Despite the horror of the fire at Grenfell Tower, UK regulations for tall buildings are ahead of the curve in comparison with other countries. There have been huge improvements in construction materials and technological solutions throughout the modern era. And testing and certification methods have became even more rigorous, to ensure the quality of new products. Of course, many people are now asking what more could have been done to prevent the tragic loss of life in the Grenfell blaze. The truth is, while architects and engineers can work to mitigate the risk of fire, it cannot be completely eliminated. The addition of some materials to buildings, such as cladding, will obviously now come under scrutiny. But there are several improvements that can be made to old 20th-century tower blocks like Grenfell, to make them safer places to live.

  • STEM educationNorthrop Grumman Foundation fosters a “passion for engineering”

    The Northrop Grumman Foundation and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) are partnering, for the second year in a row, to host twenty-five middle school teachers (fellows) from locations near Northrop Grumman sites for a year-long blended learning experience, culminating in a two-week externship during the summer at a site near them.

  • Energy securityTaller wind turbine towers to help expand wind energy nationwide

    Winds at higher elevations, generally, are stronger and more consistent, even in wind-rich states such as Iowa and Texas. In fact, a 20-meter increase (about 66 feet) in tower height creates a 10 percent boost in Iowa energy production. Researchers have been working on developing new concrete tower technology capable of reaching 140 meters (about 459 feet). The towers will be assembled from precast panels and columns made with high-strength or ultra-high-performance concrete. Those panels and columns can be cast in sizes that are easy to load on trucks. They are tied together on-site by cables to form hexagon-shaped cells. A crane can stack the cells to form towers as high as 140 meters.

  • STEM educationMiddle school engineers show their skills in electric car competition

    Chicago-area middle school students showcased their engineering talents of at the annual Electric Car Competition this spring. The quest: construct a fully functioning model electric car that could travel a 20-meter track while carrying a two-pound load. The task challenged students to apply the same science and engineering principles used by professional engineers every day.

  • InfrastructureWater-repelling, long-lasting concrete could make potholes disappear

    Water is concrete’s ultimate enemy. Although concrete withstands constant beatings from cars and trucks, water can break it down, pooling on its surface and infiltrating the tiniest cracks. Add freezing and thawing cycles, and it is no wonder roads need frequent repairs. To keep Mother Nature out, researchers have created a water-repelling concrete. The concrete is not only water-repellent – it isdesigned to have a service life of up to 120 years.

  • STEM educationIncreasing awareness of engineering technology as a field of study, employment

    In 2014, there were nearly 94,000 four-year engineering degrees, nearly 18,000 four-year ET degrees, and more than 34,000 two-year ET degrees awarded in the United States. While workers in the engineering technology (ET) field play an important role in supporting U.S. technical infrastructure and the country’s capacity for innovation, there is little awareness of ET as a field of study or category of employment in the U.S., says a new report from the National Academy of Engineering.

  • Planetary securityDeflecting asteroids to prevent their collision with Earth

    On 15 February 2013, an asteroid with a diameter of approximately eighteen meters exploded over the Russian town of Chelíabinsk, producing thousands of meteorites that fell to Earth. Many meteorites hit the ground each year, each with a total mass exceeding one ton. An international project provides information on the effects a projectile impact would have on an asteroid. The aim of the project is to work out how an asteroid might be deflected so as not to collide with the Earth.