Now You Know

Building explosions
Monday, January 31, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:01 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

What’s new: Faculty and student researchers at the National Center for Explosion Resistant Design at MU are looking for ways to make buildings explode gracefully rather than catastrophically.

The center, which was created in 1997 under the supervision of Sam Kiger, chairman of MU’s civil engineering department, promotes understanding of the explosion environment and generates structural building designs. The designs aim to reduce flying debris and prevent the collapse of a building after an explosion, thus minimizing potential injury or death to people inside the structure.

How it’s being done: In 2001, the center built a static testing chamber that allows researchers to determine why and how buildings fall in an explosion. Based on that achievement, they have developed a computer code that can determine whether a wall could safely withstand an explosion. They also came up with a polymer

enforcement that can be applied to existing masonry block walls to

improve their blast resistance.

Why it matters: Since the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, improving a building’s ability to withstand explosion has become a field of intense interest. The Department of Defense is already modifying building designs in accordance with the center’s recommendations, and other government agencies are following suit. This means that people working in those government facilities considered likely targets of terrorist attacks will be safer than ever before.

For more information: Visit the National Center for Explosion Resistant Design at

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