This Truck Shakes the Ground So Hard It Can Simulate Earthquakes

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The shaking of minor earthquakes can feel like a garbage truck driving by. T-Rex is no plain old garbage truck though. The 64,000-pound "mobile hydraulic shaker" is designed specifically to make the ground rattle and jolt—all so scientists can study how the ground reacts to earthquakes.

T-Rex is in the spotlight again thanks to the recent Napa earthquake, but also thanks to earthquake-simulation research out in Christchurch, New Zealand. In 2011, Christchurch suffered a devastating earthquake where the ground liquified and gave way. Since then, geologists have gone back to Christchurch to study where soil liquefaction occurs and how to stop it. We've written about one part of their earthquake research—where they're blowing up the ground underneath an abandoned suburb—but T-Rex is another.

Last spring, T-Rex was shipped over to New Zealand to shake the ground at Christchurch. An array of seismometers have been placed underground to monitor the soil movement below. As T-Rex shakes, those seismometers will return data to help geologists understand which areas are prone to liquefaction.

T-Rex is one of three mobile hydraulic shakers housed at UT Austin as part of the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation. The other two have special functionality: Liquidator is designed to shake at low frequencies and Thumper is small enough to fit in the back of a pickup. T-Rex is unique for both the amount of force it can generate—over 250 kilonewtons or 55,000 pounds in certain directions—and the fact it can shake along all three axes. It's a lot of power (and scientific potential) packed into one heavy truck. [Boston Globe, Purdue, UT-Austin]


Top image: Cecil Hoffpauir/UT-Austin