IIT Delhi professor on a mission against tremors

- September 25, 2023
| By : Mohd Shehwaaz Khan |

Among the 12 awardees of the coveted Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Awards, Dipti Rajan Sahoo, professor at IIT Delhi, has taken on the challenge to fortify India's urban centers against seismic threats with low cost devices

KNOWN FACE: Dipti Rajan Sahoo is a distinguished figure in the field of structural engineering

In the world of civil engineering, the resilience of our structures against natural disasters is paramount. Professor Dipti Rajan Sahoo, a distinguished figure in the field of structural engineering and a professor at the Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Delhi, has made significant strides in this crucial area. With over 15 years of dedicated research, he has been at the forefront of developing innovative techniques for earthquake and fire resistance, particularly focused on residential buildings and heritage structures.

He was among the 12 scientists, who were recently awarded the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for 2022. The prizes are given annually for achievement by a researcher under the age of 45 years in biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, medicine, engineering, and earth, atmosphere, ocean, and planetary sciences.

Having obtained his Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur in 2008, Prof Sahoo went on to broaden his horizons as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Arlington from 2008 to 2010. Since then, he has been instrumental in shaping the future of structural engineering in India, teaching and conducting groundbreaking research at IIT Delhi.

In this exclusive interview to Patriot, we delve into his award-winning contributions, the development of cost-effective earthquake resistance techniques, and his mission to fortify India’s urban centers against seismic threats while ensuring practicality, affordability, and minimal disruption.

Q: What is structural engineering?

A: Structure in Structural Engineering refers to Civil infrastructure. Civil Infrastructure dams, flyovers, airports. All these structures are designed for different load capacity, according to different geographies, weather. Hence, while designing a structure there are varieties of Loades which a structure may experience. Structural Engineering deals with all these design variations, keeping the economical factor in mind. It also involves designing earthquake resistant infrastructure.

Q: Prof Sahoo, could you elaborate on the specific techniques and innovations that earned you the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Awards for 2022?

A: Essentially I received it for my contribution towards the development of techniques for earthquake resistance structures. We have developed some low cost devices which can be manufactured in India. They can be easily fitted in the building infrastructure. This is called structural engineering for the dampers. The novelty with these devices is that they can be prepared at the site which is not true with the existing dampers. The technique which we have developed is very low cost, lightweight and can easily installed in any new or existing infrastructure. We have also developed a design methodology for building earthquake resistance. These are the two key areas for which we received this  national recognition.

Q: Ensuring the earthquake resistance of metropolitan areas like Delhi is a colossal task. What strategies and design methodologies are you employing to achieve this goal?

A: In India, buildings are largely built without paying attention to earthquake resistance or resistance to a cyclone.

The broader goal is to make metro cities like Delhi earthquake resistant in a pragmatic way. These are cities where the population density is high. The idea is to work on design and techniques which would be practical and create less interruption and is affordable.

Q:You mentioned retrofitting old infrastructure like schools and bridges. Can you shed light on the technologies and approaches you’re developing to enhance their disaster resilience?

A: We not only deal with new infrastructure but also with old infrastructure like the one in unregulated parts of Delhi. These are not designed properly hence not earthquake or disaster resistant.  We are also working on making old school buildings disaster resistant. How to rehabilitate those? So if in the near future there is an earthquake, lives can be saved. This is because school infrastructure is very important as children spend most of their time in school. We are developing some technology which can be fitted to old buildings and bridges to prevent disasters.

Q: Collaboration with government and private entities appears to be a vital aspect of your work. Could you share some light on that?

A: I am also working as a consultant with many government and private entities. I have contributed for building Kolkata metro, and even made some contributions for Delhi metro and even on few projects with Indian Railways. I have also worked on some projects for the retrofitting of the schools and other buildings. I have also worked in the field of Structural engineering with the Indian Navy.