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Civil and Environmental Engineering


Doug Adams - Research Overview

Systems Integrity & Reliability

I have always been fascinated with why materials and machines fail.

My students and I conduct full-scale dynamic experiments to discover which sensors and signatures are first to warn of impending failure in a variety of structures in the built environment, including aircraft, automobiles, and wind turbines. We then study these signatures to derive mechanistic models that explain why and how structures deteriorate. These models are extremely useful for prognostic health management, which is an automated process for scheduling maintenance of helicopters and other equipment to reduce costs. Models can also be embedded into cyber-physical systems to make equipment safer, as in the case of an aircraft with a damaged actuator that is monitored and controlled to ensure the pilot can safely complete a mission. Our research in structural health monitoring has never been more important to the nation's energy and security needs because the United States' power grid and military infrastructure are aging rapidly, while new systems with unknown failure patterns are brought online everyday – we must be ever vigilant to prevent failure in these systems.

Laboratory for Systems Integrity & Reliability

Our laboratory is a 20,000 square foot high-bay facility with state-of-the-art instrumentation for multi-modal dynamic testing of myriad materials and machines.

Students who work here with one-of-a-kind test-beds graduate as the most sought after engineers in the field. Our mission is to illuminate the complex ways in which materials and machines degrade and to predict reliability so that failure can be prevented. The goal is to develop new ways to sense, predict, and control the structural integrity of the built environment, and to translate these technologies into practice to safeguard people and property. By using sophisticated instruments – such as electro-hydraulic vehicle simulators, wind turbine dynamic test rigs, high-speed 3D laser velocimeters, and systems for digital and infrared imaging – we can quantify how structural elements behave under realistic operating conditions. For instance, we study inertial sensing systems to detect icing in wind turbine blades, scanning laser systems for standoff detection of explosive devices, and impact damage in helicopters using smart blades. We use full-scale airframe test beds to discover new ways to detect damage in composite aircraft that could reduce maintenance costs by an order of magnitude, and our diagnostic instrumentation for detecting cracks in military vehicle test-beds has been deployed to keep soldiers safe.