OSU researchers create small earthquakes to understand what happ - KPTV - FOX 12

OSU researchers create small earthquakes to understand what happens to soil

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Oregon State University researchers are essentially creating small earthquakes to understand what happens to the soil. 

They are doing it all with the help of a massive shaker truck hauled in to Longview all the way from the University of Texas at Austin.

The specialized shaker, called the T-Rex, will conduct several earthquake simulations using 35,000 pounds of force to shake the soil, according to researchers.

Researchers said the T-Rex is the only one of its kind, and allows them to produce data to test the vulnerability of soil, or liquefaction, during an earthquake.

“The soil moves back and forth creating a tendency for soil particles to collapse on themselves,” said Oregon State University Associate Professor and Geotechnical Engineer Armin Stuedlein. “When this happens water reacts to it by raising the pressure, and the raising of the pressure is what produces the loss of strength and stiffness and winds up in a collapse.”

“We’ve been at this a long time and we still have a lot to learn,” said University of Texas Professor and Geotechnical Engineer Kenneth Stokoe.

Stokoe says he’s traveled all over the world with the T-Rex and he's specifically focusing on silks and fine soils as he studies the earthquake-induced phenomenon.

“We’re looking around for all materials that have not performed well in earthquakes,” said Stokoe.

Stokoe and his colleagues at the University of Texas are now teaming up with OSU researchers to understand the level of ground shaking that ultimately causes soil to lose its strength and stiffness.

Right now, they say it's uncertain how the ground under Portland and the Willamette Valley will hold up in the event of a major earthquake.

They add that understanding liquefaction is of extreme importance.

“I think it’s starting to be recognized that the Cascadia Subduction Zone will be the largest disaster the US will experience and we need to begin preparing now,” said Stuedlein.  

Their hope is that what they learn about the soil on Friday, will help them prepare for the future.

“We can improve the resiliency of our communities to be able to survive an event we know is coming,” said Stuedlein.

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