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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Engineer Research & Development Center
Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory
3909 Halls Ferry Road
Vicksburg, MS 39180-6199

GSL Facilities

GSL operates a number of unique laboratory and research facilities, including the world's most powerful centrifuge dedicated to engineering and scientific research and the DoD's lead pavements research facility for roadways, permanent airfields, contingency airfields, and railroads.

Facilities

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Multi-scale mechanical testing is conducted in GSL’s Applied Mechanics Facility. This one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art facility is used to perform materials tests and characterization over a broad range of loads (10-9 – 107 newtons) and sizes (10-9 – 101 meters), and to investigate innovative material characterization processes and testing. A full suite of capabilities is utilized to understand, analyze and quantitatively predict the behavior of innovative materials with routine testing of diagnostics, forensic and petrographic analysis of deteriorating or failed materials. GSL’s Applied Mechanics Group also conducts research on bio-inspired materials and synthesis of materials and innovative testing of rapid-setting materials for maintenance and repair of military and civil works infrastructure in this facility.

GSL’s Big Black Test Site is dedicated to small-scale explosive testing where and when large-scale testing is limited or cost prohibitive. GSL researchers at the Big Black Test Site have the capability of conducting several tests at a fraction of the cost of full-scale field testing. This is especially beneficial when last minute test changes arise.

The ERDC has a lead role in research using experiments and computations to develop new blast design concepts for structural components and retrofits. In the past, the ERDC relied heavily on full-scale field trials to experimentally investigate blast response problems; however, it is very expensive to conduct these large experiments, primarily due to the risk of collateral damage or potential disturbance of neighbors, which dictates a remote test site. The Blast Load Simulator Facility allows blast effects research to be performed at the ERDC-Vicksburg site to replace or support current field trials. The full-scale combustible gas driven Advanced Blast Load Simulator (ABLS), when completed, will allow blast effects research to be conducted on 12-ft x 12-ft or smaller targets. The full-scale ABLS will reduce the degree of conservatism in current design programs by returning more data for a given budget. The ABLS will allow the rapid evaluation of the complete structure by examining the full-scale building components, such as the walls, windows, doors, window/wall systems, wall/door systems and structural retrofit systems.

The Centrifuge Research Facility, located at the ERDC-Vicksburg site and operated by GSL, provides researchers an economical approach for evaluating alternative designs, investigating complex problem areas, and validating numerical methods with instrumented physical models. Commissioned in 1995, the centrifuge supports research investigations in the fields of geotechnical, structural, coastal, hydraulic and environmental engineering, in addition to blast and infrastructure protection. Studies are possible under a wide range of climatic conditions from desert to polar to ocean regions. This facility significantly enhances the capabilities of researchers to address needs in physical modeling that span the full range of engineering applications. The facility is available for use by both government and nongovernment researchers.

The Concrete and Grout Facility is used for comprehensive capabilities in cement and concrete research from constituent level to full-scale production, life-cycle analysis and testing. GSL’s Concrete and Grouting Group executes concrete-related research and provides expert technical support for many customers within U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. Research on traditional and specialized concrete-related materials testing for military and civil works applications, advanced curing techniques, alternative binders and chemical admixtures for testing and applied applications is conducted in this facility. Ongoing research efforts in mixture proportioning for traditional, low-energy, bendable, high-strength, ultra-high-performance and advanced-performance concretes are conducted for use in both basic and applied Military and Civil Works applications.

Located on Fort Polk, La., the ERDC Test Facility (ETF) occupies a land area of 150 acres, with more than 300 acres in reserve as needed to facilitate the ERDC mission. The ETF has a long history as a partner to defense contractors and other businesses with advanced explosive testing needs and supports a wide range of military programs. Capabilities include engineering, explosives performance testing, machining, fabrication, assembly, repair, non-destructive testing, survivability, structural testing and ballistic testing. The ETF is a multidisciplinary test facility that has been designed to provide a safe, cost-effective theatre for ordnance and munitions-related analysis, including armor testing and explosives testing.

The Fragmentation Simulation Facility, or “Flack Shack,” was developed and is managed by GSL’s Survivability Engineering Branch. This facility provides the ability to assess performance of materials against various ballistic and fragmentation simulating projectile threats in a controlled environment. The facility is able to accommodate different experiment parameters allowing for a variety of projectiles, targets, velocities and data collection.

The Geodynamics Research Facility is a geomaterial testing facility featuring a 2-million-pound quasi-static compressive loader coupled with a confining vessel and pressure intensifier capable of providing 600 MPa (87,000 psi) of confining pressure. Rates of load and pressure application and axial displacement are achieved by a servo-controlled data acquisition system programmed for axial strain rates on the order of 10-4 to 10-5 per second and times to peak loading on the order of 5 to 30 minutes. The confining vessel accommodates material specimens up to 2 in. (diameter) and 4.5 in. (length). The confining pressure is measured externally in the fluid line of the pressure intensifier, while the applied axial load is measured from a load cell mounted internally at the base of the pressure vessel. Typical tests include hydrostatic compression, triaxial compression, uniaxial strain, uniaxial strain/constant volumetric strain, and direct-pull tension. Load, pressure and specimen displacement measurements from the instrumentation are recorded by the data acquisition system at user-defined sample rates for post-test processing.

Properly sealed joints and cracks are very important to maintaining adequate pavement performance and pavement life. Numerous types of sealant materials are commercially available for a variety of applications, but a limited number of independent laboratories are capable of testing sealant materials. The Joint Sealant Materials Facility tests joint and crack sealants, crack fillers, and related materials for conformance with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and federal specifications. Testing of sealants for liquid oxygen environments and other specialized applications are available upon request.

The USACE Materials Testing Center (MTC) provides quality materials testing in a timely fashion at a reasonable cost. In addition, MTC supplies inspection services of commercial laboratories for quality assurance and quality control testing. Located at the ERDC-Vicksburg, the MTC is the only agency authorized to validate commercial laboratories to work for USACE. The MTC has both the capabilities and personnel to provide laboratory inspections in accordance with ASTM standards, and its comprehensive capabilities include small-scale to large-scale, specialized, conventional and nondestructive testing of materials.

The ERDC Pavement Testing Facility, located on the ERDC-Vicksburg, was originally constructed to provide an area protected from precipitation that allows for the construction and traffic testing of full-depth pavement sections. Today, the facility’s pavement testing capabilities include innovative technologies, sophisticated instrumentation and accelerated trafficking equipment that help researchers in GSL perform comprehensive evaluations of important real-world pavement conditions. The facility’s covered test area limits exposure for accurate testing and has the space to allow for construction, trafficking and analysis of several test sections simultaneously.

The facility is also home to one of the largest Heavy Vehicle Simulators-Aircraft (HVS-A) in the world. The HVS-A operates off a high-voltage electrical connection (available in the facility) or independently using its onboard diesel engine power plant.
In addition, for test section evaluations, the HVS-A can:

  • Fit almost any tire or wheel set required for trafficking simulations
  • Simulate wheel loads up to 100,000 total pounds, varying from a heavy truck to fully-loaded cargo plane
  • Apply wheel traffic in a channelized path or in a custom-programmed wander pattern
  • Produce up to 500 passes per hour, running 24 hours a day if needed

The HVS-A is also equipped with insulated removable panels that surround the test traffic area of the machine. These panels, combined with a separate air conditioning power plant, allow the test traffic area and pavement testing surface to be heated to temperatures of 130°F or cooled to temperatures as low as 30°F. The facility also maintains several load carts in the vehicle fleet, simulating wheel loads of such popular military aircraft as the F-15 Eagle and the C-17 cargo aircraft.

The Projectile Penetration Research Facility is an indoor facility that features an 83-mm (3.26-in.) diameter smooth-bore powder gun with a 14.3-m-long barrel. The gun has the capability to launch projectiles with masses up to 23 kg (50 lb). The maximum projectile diameter is 76 mm (3 in.) with impact velocities from 180 m/s (590 ft/s) up to 1200 m/s (4000 ft/s). The facility accommodates targets up to 2.3 m (7.5 ft) in diameter with mass of 12,800 kg (28,219 lb). High-speed digital video cameras are used to capture impact and exit conditions of the projectile during penetration and perforation events. On-board instrumentation can also be mounted in the penetrator to measure launch acceleration and impact deceleration during the experiment.

The Sensor Coupling and Soil Behavior Facility (SCSB) is a state-of-art soil testing and research facility focused on partially saturated near-surface soil mechanics and dynamic fluid flow interactions within near-surface environments. The complexity of the near-surface in conjunction with limited knowledge of elastic-free surface soil mechanics has required the SCSB facility to not only develop new testing protocols, but also to invent new equipment to investigate observed phenomena.

The Soils and Aggregates Facility provides testing services within GSL’s Concrete and Materials Branch. The facility functions as a part of the USACE MTC and conducts experimentation and classification services to multiple ERDC laboratories, USACE districts and external groups. Researchers and technicians working in the facility hold pertinent certifications and qualifications and frequently perform inspections to ensure other USACE facilities meet standard specification requirements.

The Split-Hopkinson Pressure Bar Testing Facility enables ERDC researchers to study the behavior of materials at high strain rates, including computational simulations, experimental studies of materials and development of advanced materials. The application of these studies range from blast effects to ballistic resistant materials. GSL’s Split-Hopkinson bar benefits multiple projects and programs. The system provides the fundamental data necessary for computational simulation and the experimental understanding of material behavior, shows how damage occurs, and gives insight into developing better materials. The Split-Hopkinson bar is more cost effective than complex field or lab experiments. Outputs of the experiments run at the facility can be used as parameters for material models in structural scale simulations, which result in a tremendous cost savings and higher-fidelity models.

The Survivability Electromagnetic Facility supports unconventional countermeasures (UC) research and development. Electromagnetic characteristics of candidate materials are precisely measured in the radar, infrared and visible spectra to determine their suitability for UC design applications. The facility will also host the new Sensors, Artificial Intelligence and Fusion laboratory, which will focus on the potential contributions of machine learning as it relates to sensor dynamics and Artificial Intelligence-related data analytics methodologies to support unconventional countermeasures. These emerging capabilities will further overall research goals of the Development of Unconventional Countermeasures for Enhanced Survivability program with respect to UC development, evaluation and enhancement.