Analysis and response mechanisms of blast-loaded reinforced concrete columns
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Terrorism has been an international threat to high occupancy civilian structures, government buildings, and military installations for many years. Statistical data from past terrorist attacks show that transportation infrastructure has been widely targeted, and a bombing of an ordinary highway bridge is a realistic scenario. Recent threats to bridges in the U.S. confirm this concern and have caught the attention of the bridge engineering community. Given that many ordinary highway bridges in the United States support critical emergency evacuation routes, military transportation plans, and vital economic corridors, the loss of a key bridge could result in severe national security, economic, and socioeconomic consequences. Therefore, in this research, a simplified procedure is developed to predict blast loads on bridge columns, and an understanding of the mechanisms that cause damage and ultimately failure of blast-loaded reinforced concrete bridge columns is advanced. To that end, computational fluid dynamics models are constructed and validated using experimental data. These numerical models are used to characterize the structural loads experienced by square and circular bridge columns subjected to blast loads, which is followed by the formulation of a simplified load prediction procedure. Additionally, nonlinear, three-dimensional, dynamic finite element models of blast-loaded reinforced concrete bridge columns are developed and validated using qualitative and quantitative data from recent experimental tests. The results of these analyses illustrate the fact that circular columns cannot be assumed to experience less base shear demand than a square column simply because they experience less net resultant impulse. Furthermore, the column response models developed in this research are used to identify and explain the mechanisms that lead to the spalling of side cover concrete off blast-loaded reinforced concrete members observed in recent experimental tests. Therefore, the results of this research advance the understanding of the structural loads on and the resulting response of reinforced concrete bridge columns subjected to blast loads, and as such these contributions to the structural engineering community enhance the security of the U.S. transportation infrastructure.