23 December 2014

The creation of a unique and world-class facility that will allow researchers to study vibrations and their impact, is one step closer following the award of a $400 000 ARC grant.

Associate Professor Benjamin Cazzolato, from The University of Adelaide, is the lead Chief Investigator on a new Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities scheme grant, funded in the 2015 ARC major grants round.

Associate Professor Cazzolato will work closely with colleagues from The Flinders University of South Australia, University of South Australia, Swinburne University of Technology and University of Tasmania.

The goal of the project is to establish a multi-directional dynamic testing facility.

Associate Professor Cazzolato, who spoke at the major grants announcement in Adelaide last month, said the ability to recreate dynamic motion in all available degrees-of-freedom opened up enormous fields of research not currently possible in Australia.

“The type of robot that we will be building will allow us to shake and break objects up to four and a half tonne,” he said.

“There’s very few of these facilities in the world…currently there are no such facilities in Australia.

“What makes the facility unique is that we will tap into funding that was provided by the ARC almost a decade ago where we purchased a special laser sensing system—this will also us to measure the vibration.

“To our knowledge nowhere in the world will you be able to shake and then measure a system response to the fidelity that this facility will offer,” Associate Professor Cazzolato said.

The applications of the facility are extremely broad covering a range of areas, including: vibration testing; materials testing; biomechanics and human factors; blast and earthquake simulations; field robotics; automotive safety research; flight/vehicle simulation; and marine applications including sloshing of liquids and liquefaction of fines.

Associate Professor Cazzolato said that one of the first projects the team will undertake is to understand the response of unreinforced masonry structures to seismic activity.

“This will allow us to investigate the impact of earthquakes…this is a particular problem in residential buildings as evidenced by the Los Angeles earthquake in the 1950s and more recently in Australia, in Newcastle,” he said.

“It will also allow us to understand the sloshing of liquids and the settling and liquefaction of fines. This is a major issue for transportation systems and is the major cause of marine causalities and catastrophic capsizing of marine vessels.

“Across biomechanics it will allow us to facilitate research into prosthetics, joint degradation fatigue and failure, and balance, which is a particularly big issue with an ageing population and obesity,” Associate Professor Cazzolato said.

The research project has attracted great interest from other quarters, including small to medium enterprises and also Defence.

Closer to home Associate Professor Cazzolato’s interests are in looking at vibration isolation systems for high-end users such as the optics and defence industries, but also isolation of the vibration of electric wheelchairs and wave energy convertors.

“We are very excited about this project…and can’t wait to get shaking!”

It’s hoped the project will lead to the development of two similar systems, one at The University of Adelaide and one at The Flinders University of South Australia.

For more information about this project please contact Associate Professor Benjamin Cazzolato.


Image: Hexapod Robot for Biomechanics developed by researchers at Flinders University and The University of Adelaide. (L-R) Ben Cazzolato (UofA), Boyin Ding (UofA), John Costi (Flinders) and  Richard Stanley (Flinders). 
Photo credit: Brooke Whatnall.