A new earthquake-resilient pipeline has been designed to better protect southern California’s water utility network from natural disasters. The test mimicked a fault rupture that can occur during an earthquake when global plates begin to slip past each other, causing the ground to shift and deform. Researchers at Cornell University ran multiple tests, including an earthquake simulation in which a 28-foot-long section of the pipe was outfitted with more than 120 monitoring instruments and buried within 80 tons of soil — an experiment that took over a month for the research team to prepare. A large, hydraulically powered “split box” imposed 2 feet of fault rupture along a 50-degree angle, forcing the buried pipeline into a combination of compression and bending. While the test pipe was only 8 inches in diameter, the results are scalable and could be applied to pipelines as large as 70 inches in diameter or greater. The steel pipe, developed by JFE Holdings in Japan, uses a unique structural wave design to control buckling, allowing the pipe to bend and compress without rupturing or losing water pressure. The wave features are installed at key locations along the pipeline to absorb large ground deformation, such as movements imposed by earthquakes and landslides or from undermining associated with scour during hurricanes and floods.
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