Sherif El-Tawil, PhD, PE

Professor and Associate Chair
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering | The University of Michigan

Active Research Projects

Title: Collaborative Research: Project Smart-Recon: Smart Device-Enabled First Reconnaissance after Earthquakes
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Project Duration: 2014-2017

Synopsis: Whenever a catastrophic event occurs, reconnaissance teams are deployed within the affected areas to conduct visual inspections of buildings. The teams red-, yellow- or green-tag them to indicate their probable condition and permitted use. The central premise of this work is that widespread citizen ownership of smartphones and devices can be leveraged to automate and significantly accelerate this first reconnaissance effort. Under this proposal, research will be conducted on how to integrate measurements performed by sensors that are typically part of most modern smart devices (e.g. accelerometers, gyroscopes, etc.) to infer information about their motion during a seismic event. By increasing the speed and accuracy with which building damage may be assessed in the aftermath of natural or manmade disasters, the proposed reconnaissance technology will provide enormous cost savings and reduce potential hazards and hardships to citizens. Knowing this information will also enable first responders to optimize their response and physical inspection teams to prioritize their efforts, thereby minimizing confusion in the aftermath of a disaster. On the educational front, this project will have a substantial impact on the development of human resources.

Title: Influence Of Local-Global Synergistic Instabilities on the Seismic Collapse Resistance of Steel Columns
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Project Duration: 2013-2016

Synopsis: Columns in steel moment resisting frames can be subjected to high axial loads coupled with large lateral cyclic displacement demands during strong seismic events. Under such conditions, the occurrence of plastic hinging can introduce local buckling, which interrupts the load path and can synergistically promote other types of instabilities, such as flexural or lateral torsional bucking. The mechanisms by which such instabilities adversely interact to reduce the load carrying capacity of steel columns have not yet been investigated and are the focus of this project. Using analytical modeling and high fidelity computational simulation, fundamental studies will be conducted to investigate the vulnerability of steel moment frame systems associated with poor column performance. The studies will address the inelastic behavior of steel wide flange columns and connection subassemblies under large axial loads and lateral displacements and determine the role that local and global buckling of columns plays in promoting vertical progressive collapse of a structure during and after a seismic event. The models developed as part of this study will play a major role in moving performance-based design to the next level. Moreover, the findings of this work will provide key insight toward the development of test matrices for a future experimental program that will use NEES2 capabilities to further explore the problem.

Title: Development of a Buried Expansion Joint for Highway Bridges
Sponsor: Korea Institute of Construction & Transportation Technology Evaluation and Planning (KICTEP)
Project Duration: 2006-2018

Synopsis: An asphalt plug joint (APJ) is a type of bridge expansion joint providing quick, easy, and cheap installation along with good surface flatness. However, APJs are known to suffer from premature failure, and their behavior, especially under thermal movement, has not yet been fully established. This project investigated new geometries and materials for use in asphalt plug joints. The research entailed experimental work in collaboration with Cheju National University, South Korea, computational research and development of a new, high performance asphaltic material.

Title: MDOT Center of Excellence on Bridges & Structures
Sponsor: Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT)
Project Duration: 2006-2016

Synopsis: The mission of the Center is to provide support for the Michigan Department of Transportation in finding innovative, effective and practical solutions to bridge and structures related problems, with a particular focus on infrastructure preservation and safety. The Center aligns its efforts along four thrusts: applied research, consulting, education and outreach, and works in close collaboration with MDOT to find solutions to pressing transportation system problems.