Researchers decode the science behind earthquakes

  • Gauri Kohli & Aanchal Bedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 12, 2015 20:11 IST

Pravin Jagtap, a PhD research scholar at the department of civil engineering, IIT Delhi, is currently studying building contents can be safeguarded from devastating earthquakes, for which a mature and earthquake-resistant base isolation technology may be useful. “Base isolation increases the flexibility of the building contents which helps in reducing the transfer of earthquake forces into the contents and dissipates the energy in damping. Two most common types of base isolation systems used in practice are, rubber bearings and sliding systems. There are numerous research works carried out in the past for seismic base isolation of building structures; however, application of base isolation technology in safeguarding and design of the building contents has large scope,” says Jagtap.

Jagtap’s research area is earthquake engineering, in which he is working on seismic safety of the contents of the civil engineering structures/ buildings. Safety of these building contents is vital for proper functioning of power plants, industrial facilities, hospitals, and other important structures after earthquakes.

“Damages to the building contents may result in costly economic losses, possible death and injury to the occupants. Different types of failure of the building contents have been noticed during past earthquakes; namely, failure of the fire-fighting facilities, failure of liquid storage tanks, failure of HVAC systems, failure of chemical storage shelves and chemical containers, failure of the connections of water supply pipes, escalator failures, sliding and uplifting of unanchored tanks etc.

Non-functioning of these cause serious disasters in post-earthquake events. The estimated economic loss from failure of the vital building contents can be many times the construction cost of the building. It is also observed that the costly damages to contents of building can occur in earthquakes of moderate intensities which would cause little or no damage to the building,” adds Jagtap who did an MTech in structures from IIT Delhi and BE in civil engineering from the University of Pune.

Elaborating on his research work in geophysics, Ajay Paul, a scientist at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, says: “Himalayas, one of the most seismically active belts, have been formed due to continent to continent collision and are probable locations for future moderate to great earthquakes. The accumulated strain energy is being released in the form of major earthquakes. The four great earthquakes in the last 150 years in Himalaya – Shillong earthquake (1897), Kangra earthquake (1905), Bihar – Nepal earthquake (1934) and Assam earthquake (1950) are examples of this. To fill the unruptured gaps left between boundaries of these large earthquakes, there is a probability of another large earthquake in future.

“My research is about understanding of the earth with reference to earthquakes, plate motions and subsurface structure. The objective is to do real time monitoring of earthquakes in NW Himalayas, earthquake precursory research and study on subsurface structure of the earth using geophysical techniques,” he says.

Paul’s study region lies between the epicentre of the Kangra earthquake in the east and Bihar-Nepal earthquake in the west and is termed as Central Seismic Gap (CSG) for great earthquakes.

“The Garhwal-Kumaun region in CSG has experienced a number of moderate size events such as 1991 Uttarkashi and 1999 Chamoli earthquakes. GPS data also suggests that this central segment of the Himalayas is critically stressed to produce great earthquakes. Therefore, there is a need to monitor the seismicity of the region. Seismic data of broad band seismic network is being continuously acquired and monitored.

“Some of the instruments are connected through VSAT but with a view to boost the earthquake monitoring and precursory research it has been planned to connect all the geophysical instruments through VSAT communication system. The Nepal earthquake of M7.9 lies in the CSG. Although whole of the accumulated energy in the CSG has not been released but it can be said that the return period of a great earthquake in the epicentral zone of Nepal earthquake has certainly been extended.

“The outcome of these research works will improve our understanding about the precursory research, seismicity pattern and identification of active faults which may be the source of energy release in the form of earthquakes in future,” adds Paul who completed MTech in geophysics and PhD in seismology,” says Paul.

(Application of base isolation technology in safeguarding and design of the building contents has large scope even there is record of past research Pravin Jagtap, research scholar, IIT Delhi)

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