Australian university boosts infrastructure safety with new facility

Friday, 08 January, 2021 | Supplied by: Monash University

The National Drop Weight Impact Testing Facility (NDWITF) has been launched at Monash University. The facility is designed to boost the structural safety of present and future high-risk infrastructure, with technology that can observe the behaviour of elements under severe impact loading of up to two tonnes. The facility has the capacity to assess the structural safety of high-risk infrastructure across Australia, including railway networks, tunnels and bridges, buildings and construction materials, as well as road safety barriers and protective equipment. The NDWITF will also support research on construction, mining, geomechanics, energy and the environment. Fields of application and interest include construction materials under high strain loading, structural dynamics and engineering, mining excavation and rock fragmentation.

Enabled by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grant, the NDWITF is a Monash-led collaboration involving six other universities. The facility, located in Monash’s Department of Civil Engineering, is accessible to all researchers, students and industry. Associate Professor Amin Heidarpour, Head of Structural Engineering at Monash, led this project, and said the engineering facility will provide a national research focus on the behaviour of construction materials and systems under impact loading with unique observation techniques. Associate Professor Heidarpour said the facility will advance understanding of the fundamental behaviour of critical infrastructure exposed to impact loading and will foster innovations in design and construction.

“Understanding the behaviour of construction and geomaterials under dynamic loading is essential in dealing with various engineering problems, such as protective structures design and impact cratering, excavation and mining, blasting and fragmentation, and risk management,” Associate Professor Heidarpour said. The catastrophic failure of construction materials caused by extreme impact conditions, such as natural disasters and man-made hazards, has justified the need to carry out comprehensive research to develop infrastructure with new, innovative, cost-effective and environmentally friendly materials, Monash stated. Associate Professor Heidarpour also said the facility could ensure that Australia is at the forefront of impact engineering research internationally, thereby promoting local innovation and industrial competitiveness.

“Thanks to the ARC LIEF grant, the NDWITF will provide economic, environmental and social benefits to Australia as it will undertake research in robust, resilient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly impact engineering applications,” Associate Professor Heidarpour said. Austeng, a Geelong-based engineering company, is a key partner in this project and engineered, manufactured and installed the facility in line with Monash’s requirements. “Austeng was proud to be part of this important project and collaborate with Monash University and I am delighted our team was able to deliver a practical and workable solution given the stringent performance parameters set by Monash and the significant engineering challenges involved,” Austeng Managing Director Ross George said.

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