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Mechanical Engineering Student Investigates Passive Fluid Dampers at MCEER

Tom Liebner at tank

Senior undergraduate mechanical engineering student Thomas Liebner completed a project this summer to evaluate the energy dissipation capacity losses from the deadzone in viscous fluid dampers. He worked under the supervision of MCEER’s George Lee and Mai (Mike) Tong of the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at the University at Buffalo.

The project formally began in January 2004, soon after Tom was inducted into the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. Dr. George Lee was the speaker at the induction dinner, and his presentation was on using active dampers for mitigating earthquake vibrations. Tom was inspired by Dr. Lee’s presentation, and asked how he could become involved. That simple inquiry led to a year and a half project researching passive fluid dampers.

Tom first spent about six months working with Dr. Tong to develop computer models to imitate the behaviors of a non-ideal damper device. After analyzing his simulation results, he presented an initial report which was followed by actual experimentation in the Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEESL) at UB in the spring of 2005.

According to Tom, “we were able to perform a simple steady state test of the fluid damper under a cyclic load. Although we were unable to test all of the characteristics of the damper, the results appear to confirm our initial assumption that the deadzone in fluid dampers does not result in a significant loss of energy dissipation.”

Tom has been accepted into Penn State’s Ph.D. candidate program in mechanical engineering. He said that even if he is not directly involved with earthquake research, his “experience working with MCEER has provided valuable insight into the research process which will be invaluable to my graduate career. It was a wonderful experience, and I had a great time working with Dr. Mai Tong.”

The research was partially supported through a Zimmer Scholarship, which is a special grant allocated to mechanical engineers to encourage undergraduate students to pursue research. The research must be overseen by an advisor, although the area of research is chosen by the student.

A paper reporting the results of the research, entitled “Earthquake Energy Dissipation: Evaluating Capacity Losses from the Deadzone in Linear and Sublinear Fluid Dampers” and co-authored with Mai Tong, is currently being prepared.

The Bulletin is a free publication offering articles on Center research, cooperative ventures, reports from conferences, educational activities, upcoming events, and reviews of new MCEER publications Summer 2005

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