Centrifuge Research Center

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World's Most Powerful Centrifuge

The US Army Centrifuge Research Center, located at ERDC's Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL) in Vicksburg, Mississippi, provides researchers an economical approach for evaluating alternative designs, investigating complex problem areas, and validating numerical methods with instrumented physical models.Commissioned in 1995, the centrifuge supports research investigations in the fields of geotechnical, structural, coastal, hydraulic, and environmental engineering, in addition to blast and infrastructure protection. Studies are possible under a wide range of climatic conditionsfrom desert to polar to ocean regions.Addition of this facility has significantly enhanced the capabilities of researchers to address needs in physical modeling that span the full range of engineering applications. The facility is available for use by both government and nongovernment researchers. Further information on potential partnering mechanisms for application of centrifuge modeling is available upon request to the GSL centrifuge research team ( centrifuge@usace.army.mil).

Centrifuge Modeling Benefits

Historically, controlled field experiments and laboratory column tests have provided the bulk of experimental data. These tests are difficult to perform, expensive, and often inaccurate due to their inability to model realistic prototype conditions. Recently, researchers have come to recognize centrifuges as a powerful tool for investigating environmental engineering problems.

Centrifuge modeling offers two major advantages: correct simulations of the behavior of the prototype on a miniature dimensional scale and an accelerated time scale for diffusion processes. The technique provides a tool to investigate gravity-driven processes involved in subsurface transport that cannot be modeled in a laboratory test at earth's gravity.

A particularly valuable research application is to use the centrifuge to separate processes driven by gravity from those that are not. For example, stability of a wetting front depends on the interplay between gravity and capillary forces. In earth's gravity field these forces may be comparable. The centrifuge can be used to exaggerate the gravity component thus providing a means to separate the two effects.

Centrifuge modeling allows researchers to:

  • Investigate a wide range of field problems under laboratory conditions
  • Generate data quickly, economically, and accurately to solve real-world problems
  • Simulate long-term behaviors accurately in a short model test time
Success Story

From November 2005 through May 2006, the Centrifuge Research Center was heavily involved in efforts to evaluate the levees in New Orleans, LA, following damage suffered during Hurricane Katrina. This work was part of the overall evaluation effort by the Interagency Performance Evaluation Team (IPET) formed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Physical centrifuge modeling of the failed levee sections at 17th Street Canal, London Avenue Canal, and unfailed sections of Orleans Canal were modeled. Complete results can be found at the IPET website (a military-restricted site).

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