Bovay Laboratory Complex

Earthquakes, landslides, heavy traffic areas—all of these conditions have effects on bridges, buildings, tunnels, buried pipelines, and other critical lifeline facilities.

In the Civil Infrastructure Lab, CEE students receive hands-on experience, observing what large forces and displacements can do to soil, concrete, steel, and other fabricated materials and structures.

In lecture courses, students have learned the fundamentals and built models to predict effects, but it is in the laboratory that such models are tested and validated, often prompting new theories and new models of infrastructure-behavior.

The 12,500-sq-ft Bovay Civil Infrastructure Laboratory Complex has several components:

Earthquakes and landslides cause overwhelming damage, injury and death, and cannot be controlled by humans. Better understanding earthquakes through research will help us create safer and more resilient structures, develop early warning systems, and estimate short-term and long-term seismic hazard. 

The Civil Infrastructure Lab is home to the Cornell 3-meter biaxial direct shear apparatus that consists of a 3-meter-wide, 4.9-meter-long, steel load frame and two banks of hydraulic cylinders capable of applying 32 MN (3597 tons) of force to a 3-meter-long slab of Barre gray granite. This apparatus is the largest of its kind in the world and is utilized to generate small scale earthquakes.  Students and faculty study the mechanics of fault rupture and the physical mechanisms by which faults and fractures generate seismic waves. 

Video Transcript


The 3-meter device is also used to study the way that dynamic fault rupture events initiate, propagate and terminate including the seismic waves that are radiated by the rocks during these processes.

CEE students receive hands-on experience, designing, setting up and performing tests, and recording and analyzing real life data. The ability to observe these events in real time creates a total package of both practical and theoretical knowledge, increasing the understanding and enthusiasm of the students.

Contact for Lab:

James Strait
Manager of Tech Services, Bovay Lab
B02 Thurston Hall /130 Hollister Drive
Ithaca, NY  14853

Phone: 607-255-4078
Cell: 607-592-6648
jes583@cornell.edu