Thanks, Chuck. I do think this is quite a significant breakthrough as well. And having lived in SF and felt several earthquakes there (not Lomo Prieta, though) and also here in Portugal, where I live now (which is also prone to quakes), I think anything that can keep structures safer without being too much of a financial burden is a good thing.
These are all really good points, Nadine. There could be such a thing as too much flexibility. I don't know how many people would feel comfortable on a bridge that is noticeably swaying (I personally never felt bridges like the Golden Gate sway and I think that's the point--they do, but you can't feel it). But I think with testing and perfecting of the material these issues could be addressed.
It seems like this would be more viable for elevated freeways than for bridges. Images of the freeway collapse in the 1995 Kobe Quake are more haunting than the section (or seam) that detached on the upper deck of the Bay Bridge in 1989.
A little flexibility in a bridge is good. Too much is frightening. The Golden Gate Bridge has a nice sway on a windy day. How would this material react to high wind? What additional precautions are needed to prevent corrosion?
Overall, I agree that a 3% increase is marginal and worth the benefits.
the high cost could be recuperated in long-term maintenance and other benefits in using the material will justify its usage. alongwith SHM ( Stuctural Health Monitorign) systems this will reduce danages even with a strong earthquake.
I agree with naperlou and TJ on all counts. Superelasticity -- which I assume describes the ability to recover (and not deform plastically) from massive stresses -- would be the natural solution. In a sense, I assume this is similar to battery research in that the researchers spend lots of time looking for a chemistry with just the right material properties. To get there for only a 3% bump in cost sounds miraculous. Great story.
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Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.