Engineering team receives $3M to develop improved blast-resistant curtain walls

April 14, 2022

exterior glass walls

Exterior glass walls — a type of curtain wall — are a popular feature in new construction of commercial, academic and government buildings. They’re aesthetically pleasing and are energy efficient as they let in natural light while keeping air and water out.

But all that glass can pose a hazard in the case of an explosion.

Now, a Mizzou Engineering team is investigating ways to keep these large glass exteriors from shattering.

Hani Salim

Hani Salim

Hani Salim and Zhen Chen, professors in civil and environmental engineering, and collaborators from Missouri S&T have received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) to improve the blast resistance of curtain walls.

“Flying glass can injure people not only in the targeted building but also those who are in the vicinity of the blast,” Salim said. “We are looking at novel ideas to improve the material and response. We will be developing innovative new laminated glass and will also look at the connections and frames around the glass — how the frame is anchored. Essentially, we want to improve existing designs so they withstand powerful blast loads.”

Salim and his team previously studied ways to contain glass windows in the event of an explosion, including researching lamination techniques currently used in vehicles. Car windshields will crack if impacted but the pane itself stays in place because there is a polymer between the glass layers. However, existing lamination techniques are prone to deterioration from moisture, light and heat, making them less desirable for windows and glass walls.

This project will advance current state-of-the-art glass and curtain wall systems by developing innovative laminated and insulated glass and improved anchorage designs for shock isolation and blast protection.

Researchers will investigate emerging interlayer polymers, explore innovative glass lamination designs, develop robust simulation models and develop an extensive experimental database of materials, components and system levels under static and blast loads.

Salim is working with a company to fabricate test walls using the laminated glass system his team develops. Those walls will then be tested at two different sites. Civil engineering alumnus Kyle Perry ’07, who is now an associate professor and Experimental Mine Director at Missouri S&T, will evaluate the prototypes using live explosives at a range in Farmington, Missouri. ERDC will conduct additional testing at their facility using an advanced blast load simulator.

Ultimately, the team will create an Engineering Analysis and Design Guide for Curtain Walls and Anchorage Systems under Blast Loading that will help inform construction standards for building protection and design.

“Glass curtain walls have a lot of benefits,” Salim said. “We’re hopeful that our findings will ensure they have an added layer of protection for those inside and around them.”

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