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James Nau

Professor Emeritus

111 Lampe Drive 380


Dr. Jim Nau joined the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering in 1982 after receiving his Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At the undergraduate level, he teaches statics, solid mechanics, reinforced concrete design, structural steel design, and the senior design project course. At the graduate level, he teaches CE 523 Theory and Behavior of Steel Structures and CE 528 Structural Design in Wood.


Ph.D. Civil Engineering University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 1982

M.S. Mechanical Engineering North Carolina State University 1977

B.S. Mechanical Engineering North Carolina State University 1974

Area(s) of Expertise

Dr. Nau is interested in structural design, structural dynamics, earthquake engineering, and numerical methods. His research is principally in the area of earthquake engineering. He is currently engaged in several research projects on the seismic response of steel and concrete bridge structures, with support from the Alaska University Transportation Center and the Alaska Department of Transportation. In collaboration with colleagues Mervyn Kowalsky and Rudi Seracino, this research involves large-scale experimentation at the Constructed Facilities Lab. Dr. Nau's research interests have recently expanded to include structural repair using fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) materials. Reinforced concrete columns tested as part of a AUTC/AKDOT project have successfully been repaired to restore strength while preserving ductility.


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Date: 07/23/20 - 12/31/24
Amount: $498,301.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Transportation (DOT)

Based upon a seismic analysis performed in 2013, the Anchorage Port Access bridge (Bridge number 0455) requires a seismic retrofit to safely accommodate the design earthquake. The bridge, shown in Figure 1, has several deficiencies including steel column-to-cap beam connections that were determined to perform poorly under seismic loading during the first phase of this study. The objective of this study is to develop retrofit recommendations through large scale testing, modelling, and analysis. During phase one of the work, a global computational model (using lumped plasticity frame elements) was developed to assess bridge deformation demands. As part of that work, hysteretic response of the components was represented through consideration of results of a local FEM model and experimental tests. Also included in that model was the impact of damping model choices, soil-structure interaction, and ground motion directionality. The local FEM model considered the details of the individual connections to assess stress concentrations, and was calibrated through the experimental tests. Lastly, the experiments that were conducted included half scale models of two representative bridge bents that were subjected to reversed cyclic loading. Details of each of these components of the first phase of work are described next.

Date: 12/01/17 - 12/31/20
Amount: $396,000.00
Funding Agencies: State of Alaska, Department of Transportation

This research will aim to investigate a series of steel column to cap connections historically employed for bridge design that are felt to be deficient with regards to seismic performance. Computational models for the global bridge system and local connections will be developed, along with large scale seismic testing of bridge components. The goal of the research is to assess the behavior of such connections and eventually propose retrofit techniques as needed.

Date: 03/01/16 - 5/15/19
Amount: $221,258.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Transportation (DOT)

This research proposal studies the behavior of a common bridge system employed in Alaska that utilizes decked bulb-tee girders connected by a diamond shaped longitudinal grouted keyway joint with intermittent steel shear connectors. While the behavior of the joint under gravity loads is well established, the performance under transverse seismic excitation is largely unknown. Through the use of full scale subassembly tests and non-linear modelling, recommendations on (1) Connection limit states; (2) Improvements to the connection (if needed); and (3) Lateral Modeling approaches will be proposed

Date: 03/01/16 - 5/15/19
Amount: $190,811.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Transportation (DOT)

This research proposal addresses the design and behavior of a new, recently developed connection for steel bridge substructures. This new connection, termed the grouted shear stud connection (GSS), was shown to be an effective and improved design over current practice of directly welding hollow circular steel pipe piles to steel cap beams. In previous studies, the new connection performed well, in both quasi-static and dynamic tests at ambient (indoor) laboratory temperatures. Because this new connection relies upon the integrity of grout, a cementitious material prone to degradation from severe environmental conditions typical in Alaska, the durability of this material and the connection as a whole must be assessed. This proposed project focuses on the durability of the GSS by optimizing the grout properties through material testing, and subsequent tests of weathered and unweathered full-scale connection specimens when subjected to temperatures as low as -40????????? C. The outcome of this research will be a set of design recommendations to maximize the durability and hence the long term performance of the grouted shear stud connection. While developed for new bridge construction, the GSS connection is readily adapted to retrofit applications in existing steel bridge substructures with deficient pipe column to cap beam connections. The results of this study may therefore be of value in the eventual structural upgrade of Bridge No. 455, the Anchorage Port Access.

Date: 05/15/15 - 9/30/18
Amount: $228,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Transportation (DOT)

Modern seismic design practices for bridge structures involve the use of capacity design principles that locate plastic hinges in columns, while protecting against other modes of failure or locations of damage. For large earthquakes, the formation of plastic hinges in columns can lead to buckling and rupture of longitudinal steel. Traditionally, once buckling occurs, bridge columns are demolished and rebuilt because the cost to replace portions of columns can be prohibitive. Replacement is deemed necessary since the inelastic strain capacity of reinforcing bars is severely diminished once buckling occurs, rendering the structure vulnerable to collapse in future earthquakes. Bridge column repair has been studied for some time with several established techniques for repair for shear and confinement critical columns. To the knowledge of the PIs, there is little data available on repair of columns that are otherwise designed to modern standards. Similarly, there is little data available on developing an understanding of when repair is truly needed, and when repair is truly no longer feasible. A recent pilot study conducted at NCSU demonstrated the feasibility of a repair technique which employed the relocation of the plastic hinge to a previously undamaged location within the column. This was successfully employed for columns that sustained buckled reinforcing bars, and showed promise for columns with fractured bars. In this proposal, the pilot study is expanded by developing a suite of repair techniques aimed at achieving plastic hinge relocation in damaged columns. Techniques may include the use of fiber reinforced polymers, high strength steel, reinforced concrete and structural steel. The focus will be on the concept of ???????????????hinge relocation for repair?????????????????? and will consider variables such as the need for rapid deployment following an event, environmental conditions at the time of repair, and expertise of potential repair workers in Alaska. The research will utilize columns that will be built and damaged as part of another AKDOT research project, thus maximizing resources. Recommendations will consist of analysis and design guidelines, as a function of damage level (i.e. strain limits), for repair design of reinforced concrete (RC) bridge column to footing connections. The recommendations will also be applicable to some RC column to cap connections, although specific tests on that configuration are not part of this phase of work.. In addition, analytical studies will be conducted on other bridge column connection types (e.g., reinforced concrete filled steel pipes to pile cap beams) such that the direction for future experimental work on those connections may proceed.

Date: 11/15/14 - 6/30/17
Amount: $308,623.00
Funding Agencies: State of Alaska, Department of Transportation

Ongoing research at NCSU funded by AKDOT and AUTC has investigated the impact of loading history on the definition of strain limit states, as well as the relationship between strain and displacement. The 2009 AASHTO Seismic provisions are a displacement-based document and as a consequence, accurate estimates of displacement at key performance limit states are essential. This research project is the next logical step in the study on load history where the impact of a 2-dimensional load path is investigated. The research will also include a component of study related load path effects on the stability of ductile wall piers. Presented in this proposal is background information regarding the prior study in load history conducted at NCSU, followed by a discussion of the critical issues identified in the literature regarding multi-directional loading and a proposed task-by-task approach to the research program.

Date: 08/15/13 - 12/31/16
Amount: $247,840.00
Funding Agencies: State of Alaska, Department of Transportation

A research project on reinforced concrete filled pipe piles concluding in May of 2013 had the following objectives: (1) Develop recommendations for strain limits for use in seismic design at key design limit states as a function of diameter/thickness (D/t) ratio and material properties, (2) Develop an equation (via computation) for the plastic hinge length of ?below ground hinges?, (3) Quantify the impact of reinforcing steel on performance and confirm that strain compatibility can be used for prediction of the force-displacement response. These three objectives have been studied through the use of large scale experimental testing, and the analysis of pile members. In addition, work in the project provided recommendations for equations to estimate equivalent viscous damping, which are required for implementation in a direct displacement-based design approach. This proposal builds upon the work previously conducted through the following tasks: (1) Large scale testing of reinforced concrete filled pipe piles in soil; and (2) FEA and fiber-based SSI analysis. The specific goals of this proposed research project are to examine the impact that soil stiffness has on: (1) Pipe pile strain limit states; (2) Plastic hinge length and integration of curvature for deformations; (3) Proposed analysis methods, and (4) Damping

Date: 05/01/14 - 8/31/14
Amount: $20,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Transportation (DOT)

During the first two days of the meetings, instructors Kowalsky, Priestley, Calvi, and Goodnight will present the displacement-based design approaches as it is applied to bridge structures. The procedure, which has undergone continual development since 1993, led to a textbook on the topic in 2007. Since that time, refinement have continued to be developed. During the 2 days of the seminar, the procedure will presented, with the end outcome being the tools needed to apply the DDBD approach to the design of highway bridges, typical of those seen in the state of Alaska. Topics covered include seismic demands, equivalent damping, moment curvature analysis, member response, design for SDOF systems, special design cases, impacts of P-D effects, limit state displacements, soil structure interaction, design verification tools, longitudinal bridge design, transverse bridge design, curved bridges, design of column plastic hinges, overstrength, shear design, bridge isolation systems, cable stay bridges, and wharves. Example problems will be posed to attendees at the end of the first day for overnight solution and presentation of results the following morning. The final two days of the meetings will deal with design implementation of past research conducted at NCSU for AKDOT. This will include sessions on the new grouted shear stud connection for bridge substructures, the impact of load history on bar buckling, new proposed plastic hinge length equations, and behavior of concrete filled pipe piles. In addition, an interactive discussion in planned for the final day on current and future research projects. In all cases, these projects have already found implementation into AKDOT practice, and the objective of these sessions will be to present the outcomes, and allow for question/answer/interaction on proposed design recommendations

Date: 11/25/08 - 8/31/14
Amount: $250,000.00
Funding Agencies: AUTC (Alaska University Transportation Center)

There are two related problems addressed in this research: (1) Currently, structural engineers utilize concrete and steel strain limit states that have minimal experimental or theoretical basis. While the strain limits that are typically utilized attempt to account for cyclic loading, there is no current basis for their selection. Furthermore, the strain limits typically proposed do not consider the effects of temperature. Lastly, while strain limits that occur early in the non-linear range are well established (i.e. serviceability limit state), the strain limits which define maximum structural capacity are less well defined. Most well detailed modern reinforced concrete sections fail by buckling of reinforcement ? a limit state which is still ill-understood. (2) In design, engineers relate strains to displacement via monotonic section analysis, however, earthquakes impose cyclic loading on structural systems. As a result, strain limits that are currently utilized can be correlated to different displacement limits depending on the load history the structure is subjected to. As a result, there is a pressing need to (1) Propose strain limit states that account for low temperature effects and regional seismic load histories, and (2) Develop an approach to allow AKDOT engineers to easily relate proposed strain limits to target displacements for design.

Date: 07/01/11 - 5/31/13
Amount: $186,248.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Transportation (DOT)

The use of concrete filled steel tubes in bridge construction is common in the state of Alaska, as well as in other states and regions of the country. One reason for their use is that construction is simplified because the steel tubes serve the dual function of the foundation, i.e., piles below the ground surface, and the above-ground columns for the cap beam. The majority of past research has dealt with concrete filled steel tubes at very small scale and without internal reinforcement. In Alaska, the preferred system utilizes longitudinal reinforcement in addition to the steel tube itself. While available research has shown that the performance of concrete filled steel tubes is satisfactory, a number of important questions remain unanswered for the particular application commonly used in Alaska. The problems that will be addressed in this research project include the impact of reinforcing steel on the behavior of the pile-column, the accuracy of analysis methods for prediction of force-deformation response of the pile-column system, the impact of the ratio of tube diameter to tube thickness (D/t ratio) on the performance of the pile-column at multiple limit states, and the plastic hinge length for the below-ground hinge developed in the pile-column. These problem areas will be examined through a series of 10 large-scale tests on concrete filled pile-columns, and from the development of a finite element model capable of capturing all of the anticipated modes of failure, including local buckling of the steel tube. Two of these tests will be conducted in the environmental chamber at NC State, in an attempt to capture the effects of low temperatures (-40C) on structural behavior and performance. The research will result in design expressions relating D/t to strains at various limit states, design expressions for plastic hinge lengths for concrete filled pipes with internal reinforcing steel, and modifications to moment-curvature analysis tools, if required, to predict the force-deformation response to cyclic loading. The research findings will be summarized in a concise design manual appropriate for AKDOT use.

Date: 07/15/10 - 12/31/12
Amount: $181,600.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Transportation (DOT)

The research program described in this proposal is a follow up to a previously conducted project in which a structural system in common use in Alaska was evaluated. Of primary interest in the prior project, and in this proposed phase two project, is the welded connection between the circular pipe piles and the double HP cap beam, a system commonly used as the supporting bents for Alaska bridges and marine structures. Phase one was essentially an investigation into the assessment of current design practice, and a proof of concept to identify improved connection design approaches. The results of phase one indicated that the current practice of fillet welding the cap beam to the pile is inadequate. Additional tests on alternative weld details proved that welding alone is not likely to produce the necessary ductility and energy absorbing capacities required for satisfactory designs in Alaska. The final test in phase one, in which a plastic hinge-relocating concept was investigated, proved successful. In this concept, a round steel column capital was utilized, in which the top portion welded to the cap beam is thicker than the bottom thinner portion welded to the pile. This turned down column capital was successful in reducing the inelastic demands of the cap beam weld, and forced the inelastic action to occur in the pile itself. The research proposed in phase two includes the optimization of the column capital design to improve displacement capacity and ductility and an investigation of additional connection designs proposed by AKDOT engineers (kerf, pocket, and truss-type connections). A set of nine full scale tests will be conducted, in conjunction with both finite element and frame analyses. The research team will work closely with AKDOT engineers, as they have in current and past projects, to design the tests to achieve the most meaningful results. Since the number of full scale tests is limited, it is important to learn as much as possible from each. The design of subsequent tests takes into consideration all results from previous tests. The research will result in a series of design recommendations consistent with the various levels of seismicity found within the State of Alaska. The primary benefit of this project will be the improved design and performance of steel bridges and marine structures containing similar connections.Alaska DOT engineers will be provided with guidelines to ensure that Alaska?s bridges and marine structures remain safe in major earthquakes.

Date: 07/12/10 - 8/15/12
Amount: $237,408.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Transportation (DOT)

This research project investigates the impact of seismic loading history on the design of reinforced concrete bridge columns typical of those used in the State of Alaska. Currently, structural engineers use concrete and steel strain limit states in seismic design which have minimal experimental or theoretical basis. While the strain limits that are typically used attempt to account for cyclic loading which earthquakes impose, there is insufficient basis for their selection. Furthermore, these strain limits are often converted, through monotonic section analysis, to displacement limits for design purposes. But again, the cyclic nature of earthquake loading can significantly alter the relationship between strain and displacement. An understanding of this relationship between strain and displacement, as a function of loading history, is essential for reliable seismic design. The overall objective of this project is to propose strain limit states that account for regional seismic loading histories in Alaska, and to relate these proposed strain limits to displacement limits. The goals of this project will be met through a combination of analytical and experimental studies. A key requirement of the experimental work is the ability to measure large strains (up to 12%). NCSU has an optical measurement system previously purchased for this purpose which has been shown to be reliable for such measurement of strains in reinforcing steel. The seismic loading histories to which the test specimens will be subjected will be determined from a dataset developed by researchers at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Results from both frame-type and fiber-based analyses using the ground motions from the dataset will guide the initial selection of specimen design variables. A total of nine tests on essentially full scale circular bridge columns will be performed. The details of the specimens will be determined based the results obtained from the current project, from the analytical results, and from each of the previous tests in this proposed phase two project. Given the limited number of tests, it is important to learn as much as possible from each test before designing and conducting additional tests. This approach has worked successfully in current and previous projects sponsored by the Alaska DOT. These nine test units will be subjected to load histories with varying characteristics, but typical of those experienced in Alaska. The results of this research project will be presented as proposed tensile and compressive strain limits and corresponding displacement limits. The primary benefit of this project will be a better understanding of how seismic load history influences the performance of reinforced concrete bridges in Alaska. Alaska DOT engineers will be provided with tools to refine bridge designs optimized for regional seismicity, ensuring that bridges in Alaska remain safe in major earthquakes and serviceable in smaller earthquakes.

Date: 06/01/09 - 12/31/10
Amount: $292,447.00
Funding Agencies: US Army - Corps of Engineers

Past performance of spirally welded pipe piles has been questionable, however, advantages related to quick delivery and cost make their use attractive. As a result, the project described in this proposal has been developed to identify the required information needed by structural engineers to make a proper judgment on the use of these piles in coastal applications subjected to storm surge and wave action. Spirally welded pipe piles are manufactured in a manner that may result in various categories of welded joints (examples of three are shown in Fig. 1), any of which at or near the plastic hinge zone of a pile may impact its performance. The location of the plastic hinge zone in the ground will depend on the stiffness of the soil and pile diameter. The three scenarios of weld categories shown in Fig, 1 represent the simplest, which is spiral only (Fig. 1a) to most complex, which includes a spiral, skelp and splice weld (Fig. 1c) . This project will conduct experiments to determine the load-displacement responses under a load history that would mimic the effects of surge loading as well as to determine failure mechanisms for these three welds located at the plastic hinge of the pile.

Date: 06/01/05 - 12/31/09
Amount: $222,432.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Transportation (DOT)

The research described here aims to assess the influence of low temperatures on the ductility of reinforced concrete structures in seismically active regions such as those found in Alaska. The final goal of the research project is to develop recommendations for: (1) Temperature dependent ductility factors for Alaska DOT bridge structures, and (2) Temperature dependent overstrength factors for Alaska DOT bridge structures. This will be accomplished through a series of 10 large scale tests (see Table 1), and analysis of typical Alaska DOT structures accounting for the effects of temperature on strength and ductility. Recommendations will be provided for both current force-based design utilized by Alaska DOT as well as for displacement-based design. These recommendations will be provided in a final report and will also be presented to Alaska DOT engineers at a workshop at the conclusion of the research program.

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