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How the Largest Lab Experiment in Earth Sciences Was Built

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Inside Biosphere 2
Three hill slopes, each contained in steel housing at Biosphere 2, are collectively known as the Landscape Evolution Observatory. (Photo: Bob Demers/UANews)

How the Largest Lab Experiment in Earth Sciences Was Built

April 13, 2016
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Designing and building three massive hill slopes, known as LEO, was no ordinary undertaking for the UA's Biosphere 2.

This is the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2, home to three identical, massive hill slopes each contained within a green steel structure. The three slopes are collectively known as the Landscape Evolution Observatory, or LEO, the world’s largest laboratory experiment in the earth sciences.

Designing and building such a laboratory experiment was no ordinary undertaking. Just ask structural engineer Allan Ortega-Gutiérrez, who was instrumental in the structural design and construction phases of LEO.

It’s interesting to work on a project like this because it breaks some of the rules that as a structural engineer I do every day," says Ortega-Gutiérrez, an alumnus of the UA College of Engineering. "LEO is one of those things that becomes a marriage between science and engineering."