European Research Council funds UCL research into tsunami vulnerability and smart geometry

29 July 2013

Two UCL Engineering researchers, Dr Tiziana Rossetto (UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering) and Dr Niloy Mitra (UCL Computer Science) have received Starting Grants from the European Research Council to work on assessing the vulnerability of urban coastal areas to tsunami and smart geometry, respectively.

These awards fund early-career talent within the European research area for both blue-sky research, and discoveries that can be directly translated into outcomes. €400 million was awarded during this round to 287 early-career researchers (selected from 3328 applicants) across 22 countries in Europe. Six awards were made to researchers at UCL, including Drs Rossetto and Mitra, whose projects and challenges are described in text and video below.

Urban Waves – Assessing the vulnerability of coastal urban areas to tsunami

Tsunami damage documented by Dr Tiziana Rossetto, UCL

The results of tsunami

Recent events such as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami have demonstrated how vulnerable urban regions – as well as ports and nuclear plants –  are to tsunami. By 2070, over 150 million people and € 23 trillion in assets may be exposed to coastal flooding, which may increase further if the sea level rises predicted by some climate change scenarios come to pass. Despite this, no reliable method exists yet for analysing the resistance of buildings to tsunami, and very few cities worldwide have invested in defences against storm waves.

Dr Tiziana Rossetto and her group aim to provide answers to the problems of assessing buildings and engineering defences against these elemental forces, and guide insurance companies in their approach to this growing problem. The new ERC grant would allow the creation of a unique tsunami generator, 100m long. This new resource will be used for testing and quantifying the effects of tsunami waves on built environments, and the failure limits and performance of coastal defences.

Hear Dr Rossetto talk about her work, and see footage of the experiments she conducts, in this short video:

To find out more about the work of Dr Rossetto and her group, visit the UCL Earthquake and People Interaction Centre website.

SmartGeometry: Structure-aware Geometry Processing

'Smart geometry' work by Niloy Mitra of UCL Computer science

‘Smart Geometry’ involves automatically identifying symmetries in complicated structures such as this dragon statuette

Most designs begin life inside a computer, and 3D scanners are becoming accessible for the home user. Such technologies make collecting information about the shape and arrangement of world around us ubiquitous, but the data often lack meaning. This is unfortunate, because there are often repetitions and similarities within and between different records. For example, all windows on a building might be identical, or a statue always found on top of its column, regardless of the street the photo is taken from. Spotting these relationships allows artificial systems to draw surprising conclusions and find connections between different kinds of data – and also to store them more efficiently.

The SmartGeometry project, led by Dr Niloy Mitra of UCL Computer Science, will develop mathematical frameworks and computational tools to extract, represent, manipulate, and utilise relations among massive collections of 3D models. The ultimate goal of this proposal is to lay foundations for a method of geometric processing which is ‘aware’ of structure. Including this additional, computationally-extracted information about geometric relationships and constraints when comparing structures could have far-reaching implications across many disciplines. For example, pharmacists could look for new drugs with similar conformations to those used in existing treatments, civil engineers and architects could spot similar pieces required for their construction and save time and money by making them at the same time, and product designers could find novel shapes for household objects which retain the same functionality.

This video shows an example of Niloy’s work on improving computational analysis of geometry.

To find out more about Dr Mitra’s Smart Geometry work, including paper downloads, videos explaining the concepts, and code examples, visit his Smart Geometry page.

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