Funded by the National Science Foundation, Collaborative Research: Analyzing Deployable Torque-Activated Structural Mechanisms for Enhanced Tension Capacity of Geosystems, is a collaboration between Dr. Ryan Beemer, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at UMass Dartmouth, and Dr. Ann Sychterz and Dr. Joe Tom of the University of Illinois.
The project, funded by a $282,835 NSF grant, focuses on the behavior of deployable geosystems. These systems change size or shape after being installed in the soils, like an umbrella opening underground. To this point, deployable systems have only been used in aerospace and above-ground applications such as the James Webb telescope or scissor lifts, for example. This project will be the first to explore their use underground to support offshore structures. Beemer’s group at UMass Dartmouth will test and analyze scale models of the deployable geosystem in an effective stress testing chamber.
Researchers will examine deployable foundations and anchors that increase their size underground once they are installed. These systems can be used specifically for foundations and anchors for offshore wave and wind energy converters, land-based wind turbines, and tall buildings. Deployable systems can reduce the cost of foundations and anchors because they are easier to transport when they are folded. That is, more foundations can fit on a truck or a ship, so less roundtrips are needed to and from the construction site.
Offshore construction vessels can cost over $100,000 a day to operate. The ability to transport double or triple the number of folded geosystems that deploy in the field can result in significant cost savings for offshore construction. Onshore, these systems would still result in transportation cost savings and are also easier to install in dense urban environments.
“We are excited for this interdisciplinary research on deployable geosystems,” Beemer said. “The concept of a small foundation that grows and expands underground is so simple and elegant but has never been researched. We hope this could change how we think about designing foundations and underground construction to create more efficient and reliable infrastructure.”