Ashley P. Thrall

Myron and Rosemary Noble Associate Professor

of Structural Engineering

University of Notre Dame
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
and Earth Sciences
Ashley P. Thrall



CAREER: Transitional Bridging: From Rapidly Deployable Disaster Relief to Permanent Infrastructure Solutions


Funded by a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award, ongoing research efforts are building a theoretical framework for transitional bridging - bridges that can be rapidly deployed for immediate disaster relief and can be transformed in-situ for higher load capacity to support long-term, sustainable development. Following natural and anthropogenic hazards, rapidly deployable bridges are critical to restoring vital transportation arteries. The long recovery times following the 2010 Chile earthquake and tsunami demonstrate the need for bridging solutions that can provide an immediate response but also serve as permanent infrastructure. To this end, the project will test the hypothesis that novel adjustable connections can increase efficiency of rapidly erectable bridging systems by enabling a diversity of structural forms which can more effectively carry load using less material. The research plan will also test the hypothesis that novel adjustable modules can provide transitional capabilities. The efficiency of the transitional bridging framework which integrates the adjustable connections and modules will be verified numerically and experimentally. For more information on this project, see the project-specific website.


Relevant journal papers:


Gerbo, EJ, Wang, Y, Tumbeva, MD, Thrall, AP, Smith, BJ, and Zoli, TP (2017) "Behavior of an Adjustable Bolted Steel Plate Connection during Field Installation." American Society of Civil Engineers Journal of Structural Engineering, In press.


Gerbo, EJ, Thrall, AP, Smith, BJ, and Zoli, TP (2016) "Full-field Measurement of Residual Strains in Cold Bent Steel Plates." Journal of Constructional Steel Research, 127: 187-203.


Wang, Y, Thrall, AP, and Zoli, TP (2016) “Adjustable Module for Variable Depth Steel Arch Bridges.” Journal of Constructional Steel Research, 126: 163-173.


Gerbo, EJ, Casias, CM, Thrall, AP, and Zoli, TP (2016) “New Bridge Forms Composed of Modular Bridge Panels.” American Society of Civil Engineers Journal of Bridge Engineering, 21(4), 04015084.


Assessment of Bridges Subjected to Vehicular Collision


Funded by the Indiana Department of Transportation - Joint Transportation Research Program, the aim of this project is to understand the impact of vehicular collision on the behavior and load carrying capacity of slab-on-steel-girder bridges. Research will include (1) performing non-destructive field testing using Digital Image Correlation, (2) developing validated numerical models, and (3) performing parametric investigations to extend results to other loadings and bridge geometries. Research will culminate in analysis recommendations and assessment guidelines for bridge inspectors to evaluate damaged bridges for repair.


Novel Deployable Origami Shelters with Integrated Energy Planning and Management


Funded by the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, a novel deployable origami shelter with integrated energy planning and management has been developed. This research was motivated by the rising priority for reducing fuel consumption for heating and cooling military shelters. To address this need, the Kinetic Structures Laboratory (KSL) has designed a concept for a folding, rigid wall structure inspired by the art of origami. It is comprised of sandwich panels which provide a high-strength to weight ratio and thermal insulation. The structure folds to a compact state for transportability. To develop this concept, the KSL has performed structural analysis according to design loads and optimized the shape for structural performance and energy efficiency in heating and cooling. The concept has been demonstrated through the erection of a full-scale prototype. To further investigate behavior of this structure, the KSL has performed experimental testing on a half-scale prototype (including material testing according to ASTM standards, component testing on a single panel, testing during deployment, and testing of the erected prototype). The KSL is collaborating with mechanical and electrical engineers who are testing thermal behavior of the shelter and developing a control system for heating and cooling the shelter with the aim of conserving fuel consumption.


See a feature website and video here.



Relevant journal papers:


Ballard, ZC, Gerbo, EJ, Thrall, AP, and Smith, BJ (2016) "Behavior of Sandwich Panels in a Deployable Structure" American Society of Civil Engineers Journal of Structural Engineering, 142(10), 04016073 (14 pages)


Ballard, ZC, Thrall, AP, and Smith, BJ (2016) "Behavior of Folding Sandwich Panel Structures: Impact of Ground Conditions, Anchorage, and Panel Warping." Construction and Building Materials, 112, 1110-1122.


Ballard, ZC, Thrall, AP, Smith, BJ, and Casias, CM (2016) "Impact of Hinged Connectors on Sandwich Panel Behavior." American Society of Civil Engineers Journal of Structural Engineering, 142(3), 06015005, 6 pages.


Quaglia, CP, Yu, N, Thrall, AP, and Paolucci, S (2014) "Balancing Energy Efficiency and Structural Performance through Multi-objective Shape Optimization: Case Study of a Rapidly Deployable Origami-inspired Shelter." Energy and Buildings, 82, 733-745.


Quaglia, CP, Dascanio, AJ, and Thrall, AP (2014) "Bascule Shelters: A Novel Erection Strategy for Origami-Inspired Deployable Structures." Engineering Structures, 75, 276-287.


Martinez-Martin, FJ and Thrall, AP (2014) "Honeycomb Core Sandwich Panels for Origami-Inspired Deployable Shelters: Multi-objective Optimization for Minimum Weight and Maximum Energy Efficiency," Engineering Structures, 69, 158-167.


Thrall, AP and Quaglia, CP (2014) "Accordion Shelters: A Historical Review of Origami-like Deployable Shelters Developed by the US Military," Engineering Structures, 59, 686-692.


Relevant utility patents:


Thrall, AP, Dascanio, AJ, and Quaglia, CP (2016) "Deployable Portable Shelter (Form)." US Patent 9,410,312. Issue date: August 9, 2016.


Thrall, AP, Dascanio, AJ, and Quaglia, CP (2016) "Deployable Portable Shelter (Method)." US Patent 9,334,645. Issue date: May 10, 2016.


Prefabricated High-Strength Rebar Systems with High-Performance Concrete for Accelerated Construction of Nuclear Concrete Structures


This project involves innovative research that offers the promise of dramatically reduced field construction times and fabrication costs for reinforced concrete (RC) nuclear structures through: 1) high-strength steel deformed reinforcing bars (rebar); 2) prefabricated rebar assemblies with headed anchors; and 3) high-performance concrete. The focus is on shear walls, their connections/joints, and around large penetrations/embedments because they are the most common lateral load-resisting members in non-containment nuclear structures. Specific research goals are to: A) develop transparent limit/cost-benefit frameworks; B) develop an optimization methodology for design; C) conduct experimental evaluations of structural members, member-to-member/foundation joints, splices, anchorages, and penetrations; D) develop validated numerical simulation models; E) develop validated design procedures/tools/criteria; and F) develop field procedures that are consistent with current methods. The experiments to be used for the validation of the design methods and simulation models include testing of: 1) high-strength materials; 2) headed rebar details (e.g., anchorages); 3) shear-wall-to-foundation joints under pure shear; and 4) multi-story shear walls under service, thermal, and seismic loads (combined shear and flexure). This project is funded by the Department of Energy. It is a collaborative effort with Dr. Yahya Kurama (University of Notre Dame, Lead), Dr. Scott Sanborn (Sandia National Laboraties), and Mr. Matthew Van Liew (AECOM).


See the press release here and the dedicated project website here.


Relevant journal papers:


Barbachyn, SM, Devine, RD, Thrall, AP, and Kurama, YC (2017) "Economic Evaluation of High-Strength Materials in Stocky Reinforced Concrete Shear Walls." American Society of Civil Engineers Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 143(10), 04017074, 14 pages.


Barbachyn, SM, Devine, RD, Thrall, AP, and Kurama, YC (2017) "Effect of High-Strength Materials on Lateral Strength of Stocky RC Walls." American Concrete Institute Structural Journal, 114(4): 923-936.


Robust Design Optimization of Modular Lightweight Structures


In collaboration with the Universite libre de Bruxelles, the KSL is investigating modular design through structural optimization. This research is focusing on topology optimization (i.e., member layout) of modular truss structures.


Relevant journal papers:


Tugilimana, A, Filomeno Coelho, R, and Thrall, AP (2017) "Including Global Stability in Truss Layout Optimization for the Conceptual Design of Large-Scale Applications." Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization, In press.


Tugilimana, A, Thrall, AP, and Filomeno Coelho, R (2017) "Conceptual Design of Modular Bridges including Layout Optimization and Component Reusability." American Society of Civil Engineers Journal of Bridge Engineering, 22(11), 04017094, 13 pages.


Tugilimana, A, Thrall, AP, and Descamps, B, and Filomeno Coelho, R (2017) "Spatial Orientation and Topology Optimization of Modular Trusses." Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization, 55(2): 459-476.


Re-Conceptualization and Optimization of a Rapidly Deployable Causeway


In collaboration with the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), a rapidly deployable, modular, floating causway was re-conceptualized and optimized. Prior to the collaboration, ERDC developed a prototype of the causeway (comprised of aluminum modules joined by compliant connections and supported by pneumatic floats) in response to the demand for a lightweight, air-liftable, quickly emplacable causeway. ERDC identified eliminating the heavy and complex compliant connections as a potential area for improvement. To eliminate these compliant connections, the KSL has re-conceptualized and optimized this design so that a desired superstructure flexibility (that takes advantage of buoyancy while meeting deflection limits) is achieved.


Relevant journal papers:


Russell, BR, Thrall, AP, Padula, JA, and Fowler, JE (2014) "Re-Conceptualization and Optimization of a Rapidly Deployable Floating Causeway." American Society of Civil Engineers Journal of Bridge Engineering, 19(4), 04013013, 9 pages.


Russell, BR and Thrall, AP (2013) "Portable and Rapidly Deployable Bridges: Historical Perspective and Recent Technology Developments." American Society of Civil Engineers Journal of Bridge Engineering, 18(10), 1074-1085.


Transitional Sheltering and the Universal Scissor Component


In collaboration with the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB), the KSL investigated the behavior of scissor-like elements as components for transitional shelters - shelters which can be rapidly deployed for immediate disaster relief and later reconfigured to support long-term recovery and reconstruction. Research to date has included parametric finite element modeling and experimental validation using digital image correlation and tracking of a deployable scissor arch (see video below). Research activities have also included opitmizating the universal scissor element - a multi-configurable scissor element which has the potential to improve the transitional capacity of scissor shelters. A parametric evaluation of the scissor arches provided further insight for design.



Relevant Journal Papers:


Alegria Mira, L, Thrall, AP, and De Temmerman, N (2016) "The Universal Scissor Component: Optimization of a Reconfigurable Component for Deployable Scissor Structures." Engineering Optimization, 48(2), 317-333.


Alegria Mira, L, Filomeno Coelho, R, Thrall, AP, and De Temmerman, N (2015) "Parametric Evaluation of Deployable Scissor Arches." Engineering Structures, 99, 479-491.


Alegria Mira, L, Thrall, AP, and De Temmerman, N (2014) "Deployable Scissor Arch for Transitional Shelters." Automation in Construction, 43, 123-131.