Report No.: CCEER-10-4

Title: Experimental and Analytical Seismic Studies of a Four-Span Bridge System with Innovative Materials

Authors: Cruz-Noguez, C., and Saiidi, M.

Date: September 2010

Sponsoring Agency: National Science Foundation

Performing Organization:
Department of Civil Engineering/258
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557


As part of a multi-university project utilizing the NSF Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), a quarter-scale model of a four-span bridge incorporating plastic hinges with different advanced materials was tested to failure on the three shake table system at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). The bridge was the second test model in a series of three 4-span bridges, with the first model being a conventional reinforced-concrete (RC) structure. The purpose of incorporating advanced materials was to improve the seismic performance of the bridge with respect to two damage indicators: column damage and permanent deformations.

The goals of the study presented in this document were as follows:

  1. Evaluate the seismic performance of a 4-span bridge system incorporating SMA/ECC and built-in rubber pad plastic hinges as well as post-tensioned piers
  2. Quantify the relative merit of these advanced materials and details compared to each other and to conventional reinforced concrete plastic hinges
  3. Determine the influence of abutment-superstructure interaction on the response
  4. Examine the ability of available elaborate analytical modeling techniques to model the performance of advanced materials and details
  5. Conduct an extensive parametric study of different variations of the bridge model to study several important issues in bridge earthquake engineering

The bridge model included six columns, each pair of which utilized a different advanced detail at bottom plastic hinges: shape memory alloys (SMA), special engineered cementitious composites (ECC), elastomeric pads embedded into columns, and post-tensioning tendons. The design of the columns, location of the bents, and selection of the loading protocol were based on pre-test analyses conducted using computer program OpenSees. The bridge model was subjected to two-horizontal components of simulated earthquake records of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Over 340 channels of data were collected. The test results showed the effectiveness of the advanced materials in reducing damage and permanent displacements. The damage was minimal in plastic hinges with SMA/ECC and those with built-in elastomeric pads. Conventional RC plastic hinges were severely damaged due to spalling of concrete and rupture of the longitudinal and transverse reinforcement. Extensive post-test analytical studies were conducted and it was determined that a computational model of the bridge that included bridge-abutment interaction using OpenSees was able to provide satisfactory estimations of key structural parameters such as superstructure displacements and base shears. The analytical model was also used to conduct parametric studies on single-column and bridge-system response under near-fault ground motions. The effects of vertical excitations and transverse shear-keys at the bridge abutments on the superstructure displacement and column drifts were also explored.