Many buildings in Japan currently have a base-isolation system with a low stiffness that is designed to shift the natural frequency of the building below the frequencies of the ground motion due to earthquakes. However, the ground motion observed during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake contained strong long-period waves that lasted for a record length of 3 min. To provide a novel and better solution against the long-period waves while maintaining the performance of the standard isolation range, the exploitation of the characteristics of nonlinear damping is proposed in this paper. This is motivated by previous studies of the authors, which have demonstrated that nonlinear damping can achieve desired performance over both low and high frequency regions and the optimal nonlinear damping force can be realized by closed loop controlled semi-active dampers. Simulation results have shown strong vibration isolation performance on a building model with identified parameters and have indicated that nonlinear damping can achieve low acceleration transmissibilities round the structural natural frequency as well as the higher ground motion frequencies that have been frequently observed during most earthquakes in Japan. In addition, physical building model based laboratory experiments are also conducted, The results demonstrate the advantages of the proposed nonlinear damping technologies over both traditional linear damping and more advanced Linear-Quadratic Gaussian (LQG) feedback control which have been used in practice to address building isolation system design and implementation problems. In comparison with the tuned-mass damper and other active control methods, the proposed solution offers a more pragmatic, low-cost, robust and effective alternative that can be readily installed into the base-isolation system of most buildings.
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