|Destroying to Protect
UTSA professors use virtual explosives to keep cities and soldiers safe
Clutter’s simulations have resulted in a range of damages, from shattered windows to leveled buildings. The projected financial impact has ranged
from $2.7 million in one scenario to $126 million in another.
“There are experts who’ll tell you they can predict exactly where terrorists are going to strike,” Clutter says. “If that were true, we’d all be waiting there for them with our guns drawn.
My opinion is you focus on understanding your consequences and trying
to minimize them.”
Clutter explains that every large city interacts with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to get funding. “If the City of San Antonio can go to the DHS with this kind of
rock-solid data—pinpointing exactly where it needs to maybe create a pedestrian-only thruway or put up security cameras to monitor a parking garage—it has a much better chance of receiving the kind of support it needs.”
Emergency response planning is another application for Clutter’s
research. By modeling the effects of blasts in various parts of the city, he’s able to predict the probable locations and types of injuries as well.
Explosions create upside-down
triages, with the more serious injuries being found later in the rescue process as responders work their way toward the center of the blast zone. Clutter says the data he’s collecting will help emergency personnel find the most seriously
injured more quickly by predicting where blast forces will be the highest.
“There’s a lot of data going all the way back to World War II that correlates building damage to occupant injuries,” says Clutter. “We can determine the building occupancy
and compare that to the level of damage to estimate how many and what kind of injuries there are going to be.”
During his tour of duty in Iraq, Clutter
served on an Explosive Ordnance
Disposal team. These teams, dealing with roadside explosive devices, can be
exposed to blasts that may do
While some wounds are easy to see, others, like head injuries and
especially concussions, can be less
obvious. Clutter wants to make those unseen injuries as recognizable as
An explosion is recorded as a pressure time history—a time-based schematic of the position and force of a pressure wave as it expands outward after an explosion. As the blast sweeps over a soldier, the difference in the pressure load will cause the head to move. Since the brain moves independently of the skull, this can result in it slamming against the front of the
skull, much like whiplash.
Again using computational fluid dynamic technology and explosion modeling, Clutter can measure the forces a soldier is exposed to. Working with fellow UTSA engineer Tom Connolly, Clutter is developing a sensor that can be built into soldiers’ helmets capable of recording blast data in real time. That data is then correlated to Clutter’s models to project the type of injuries it’s likely to cause.
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