Prof makes tremors in field

The American Concrete Institute honored professor of engineering Thomas Hsu with the Arthur J. Boase Award for his research on the effects of earthquakes on reinforced concrete.

To conduct his research, Hsu used the Universal Element Tester, a machine created by UH to test the limits of reinforced concrete in buildings. By simulating a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, the UET can move its 40 jacks in pairs in different directions during testing, as a way to ensure that the applied pressure shifts the load. This process is called cyclic loading.

"Cyclic loading is important because it allows us to simulate what structures endure during an earthquake," Hsu said in a release.

The UET, as it is referred to, is a machine that weighs approximately 40 tons and is about 15 feet high, which can test the amount of stress that steel-reinforced concrete can sustain, and is the only machine of its kind.

The UET can perform four types of action – compression, tension, bending, and twisting – which are measured in turn and recorded by computers to determine the strength of reinforced concrete.

Hsu, a fellow of ACI, is currently writing Unified Theory of Concrete Structures which will entail his research with the UET since 1986.

"We’re pushing a new frontier in structural engineering with this book," he said. "That’s one of the most important research topics in reinforced concrete today."

Hsu, who has been teaching at UH since 1980, has gained the attention of the academic community through approximately 60 articles published since he began his work with the UET. Hsu’s book is expected to help engineers learn how structures – ranging from bridges to nuclear reactors – can withstand natural disasters and to design materials for the construction of more resistant buildings.

Hsu has also won grants from the Texas Department of Transportation and the National Science foundation for his research in concrete structures and structural mechanics.

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