NHERI Research Leads to Technology-Transfer Successes

New collection in Frontiers in Built Environment highlights real-world impact of research conducted at NSF-funded NHERI facilities


West Lafayette, IN, Aug. 23, 2023. Researchers in the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure network, NHERI, explore novel techniques for protecting infrastructure and communities from damage by earthquakes, hurricanes, storm surge and similar events.

Five papers recently published in a Frontiers in Built Environment Research Topic illustrate a rich variety of approaches to technology transfer. The articles describe NHERI-affiliated research that has made the difficult transition from research findings into real-world practice.

"In research endeavors, technology transfer often takes longer than we'd like," said Julio Ramirez, topic editor and director of the NHERI Network Coordination Office based at Purdue University. With this collection, we are sharing some exciting ways NSF-funded research is leading to practical and effective solutions to real-world problems.”

The collected articles describe tools and information now available for use by educators, practicing engineers, social scientists, programmers, insurance companies, utility companies and property owners — as well as builders and policymakers:

  • The natural hazard reconnaissance work by Hain et al. in Puerto Rico followed the sequence of Hurricane Maria (2017) and the January 2020 earthquake, resulting in valuable published field data and field survey instruments that translate into a process for future data collection and field surveys in multi-hazard environments.
  • NHERI CONVERGE training modules detailed by Adams et al. transfer knowledge and best practices for ethical research into learning tools. To date, more than 6,300 students and natural hazards researchers have completed the modules. The reach of these online tools continues to expand globally through translation into other languages and partnerships with practice-oriented organizations such as non-profits and federal mission agencies.
  • A versatile, open-source computational tool has been developed by Lewis et al. to address the gap in understanding of nonlinear fluid-structure interaction. This tool expands design and code-based life-safety requirements to include sequential hazards, such as an earthquake followed by a tsunami.
  • Largent et al. describe an open source, computationally efficient, user friendly software tool that enables users to estimate the risk of seismic damage to their infrastructure, particularly gas pipelines and storage facilities. Such state-of-the-art risk assessment capability enables utility owners and operators to prioritize hazard mitigation efforts.
  • The paper by Sutley and Lyles illustrates by example three forms of community engagement as a catalyst for technology transfer. The first example illustrates the path to tech transfer by way of regulatory changes; the second, through industry and outreach publications and public media; and the third, a community-engagement approach that resulted in immediate adoption of research outcomes.

"Over time, we expect the practical impact of NHERI research will continue to grow as more laboratory, computer simulation and field data on NHERI's DesignSafe cyberinfrastructure platform are cataloged, published and reused," says Cheryl Ann Blain, topic editor and communications lead for the NHERI NCO.

Investigators interested in designing projects for optimal technology transfer are encouraged to connect with the NHERI Technology Transfer Committee, which provides resources, networking, and technical guidance.

Media Contacts

Julio Ramirez
Director, NHERI NCO
Kettelhut Professor of Civil Engineering
Purdue University

Cheryl Ann Blain
Communications Lead, NHERI NCO
Coastal and Ocean Remote Sensing
Naval Research Laboratory

About the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure — NHERI — is a national network of experimental facilities dedicated to reducing damage and loss-of-life due to natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, windstorms and storm surge. Along with support from the DesignSafe Cyberinfrastructure, NHERI provides the natural hazards engineering and social science communities with the state-of-the-art resources needed to meet the research challenges of the 21st century.