HEMI Fellow Thomas Gernay Investigates Construction Applications for New Steels

Nov 5, 2020 | No Comments | By Vivian Sun

Using funding from both a HEMI Seed Grant and the National Science Foundation, Thomas Gernay, HEMI Fellow and assistant professor in the Department of Civil Systems and Engineering, and colleague Benjamin Schafer, professor in the same department, are investigating if four new types of high-performance steels used in car parts can be cross-functionally used to construct more resilient and sustainable buildings.

The new steels, developed by the automotive industry and used in car bumpers and the steel cage that protects occupants in a crash, improve car handling and fuel efficiency. They are four times stronger than the steel commonly used today, but they are also more expensive to manufacture. Figuring out how to use these steels efficiently in buildings is a priority and a situation that Schafer and Gernay are trying to address.

Gernay and Schafer compiled a comprehensive data set that provides insight into the steels and how they behave under different conditions. Gernay and his team, experts in fire resiliency, tested the steels to gauge their responses to stress, strain, and high temperatures. Schafer’s research centered on the steels’ properties when formed into shapes optimized and appropriate for building construction.

They are currently entering the materials’ temperature data into Gernay’s SAFIR software, which models the behavior of building structures related to fire. Upon completion, the data and hypothetical scenarios will be available for industry use to compare different steels and determine the best material for individual projects.

Learn more about this research here.  

Thomas Gernay portrait 2019

Pictured: Gernay (left) and Schafer (right)



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