Device developed to test buildings to withstand earthquakes

How can one be sure that a high-rise structure would be earthquake-proof? The department of atomic energy has the answer. A Rs 100-crore facility at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu, can provide assistance to construction companies and builders to test multi-storied buildings and complexes for their ability to withstand a quake.

The ‘Shake Table’, as it is called, will test if a structure can withstand even a powerful earthquake. The ‘Shake Table’ is a 6 meter/6 meter facility on which the intensity of a powerful quake can be simulated.

“The facility has been set up to primarily ensure that nuclear power plant facilities are constructed to withstand quake of any intensity. The testing is done here and then construction taken up,” P Chellapandi, chairman and managing director of Bhavini, India’s fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam, told TOI. Chellapandi is on a visit to Hyderabad to participate in an international conference on nuclear fuels.

If a builder wants to find out how strong his construction would be, all that he has to do is to make a prototype on the ‘Shake Table’ and stimulate a high intensity earthquake.

If the building withstands the intensity, the builder can be sure of sturdiness of the project.

However, making use of the ‘Shake Table’ comes at a considerable cost.

An amount of Rs 36 lakh will have to be shelled out for one hour of testing. The testing would help builders identify possible structural defects.

To a question, Chellapandi said intensity equivalent to a maximum of 10 on the Richter scale can be simulated on the ‘Shake Table’.

“Though the facility has been constructed basically for the use of nuclear power projects, it has been felt it could be used to test residential and other multi-storied buildings. It also helps the department generate revenue,” Chellapandi said.

In India, the ‘Shake Table’ at Kalpakam is the biggest in size. It can carry out testing on building prototypes weighing as much as 100 tonnes. There is a similar facility in Rourkee which is of 20 tonne capacity, one at Bengaluru is of 10 tonne and another one at Chennai is of 30 tonne capacity.

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