Seismic Wallpaper – Cheap Earthquake Protection

Seismic Wallpaper – Cheap Earthquake Protection

The Seismic Wallpaper (Credit: Bayer AG)
A new type of wallpaper called seismic wallpaper might help strengthen buildings against earthquakes. The wallpaper was developed by scientists from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany together with researchers from the German chemical company Bayer AG, might be the simple solution many Earthquake prone countries have been looking for.
German scientists and researchers have developed a new economical earthquake protection measure in the form of glass fiber fabric combined with a special adhesive which increases the stability of  masonry and reduces the risk buildings creating risky deathtraps during powerful earthquakes.
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Earthquakes are quite common events in many places around the world. In recent years we have witnessed extremely powerful ones near Japan, New Zealand, Haiti and only yesterday a very strong earthquake hit Indonesia. According to Professor Lothar Stempniewski, Director of the Institute for Concrete Construction and Construction Materials Technology at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology: “Even  smaller earthquakes can cause dramatic damage, especially to masonry buildings. The degree of destruction depends less on the severity of the earthquake on the Richter scale than on how long the structures are shaken by the destructive energy from below the ground”.
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After many years of researching earthquakes and how to protect buildings against them, Professor Stempniewski and a team from Bayer AG developed what they believe is an effective and economical measure that might provides added protection against earthquakes. Essentially what the team developed is a glass fiber fabric which is glued to the wall of a building just like wallpaper.
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The team tried using different types of materials including ones based on carbon fiber, however  those created even worse damage to the buildings as the scientists discovered during their testing. However two years ago the team began to experimenting with glass fibers and the results looked much more promising.
The starting point for our work was to improve seismic protection in Romania. One of Europes most prone regions for earthquakes. During their tests, the scientists identified the specific points where stresses are especially high during earthquakes in a building, such as the corners of door frames, windows or the mortar between bricks. The idea was to cover the walls with a layer of glass fiber fabric to increase the stability of the masonry. However ordinary wallpaper paste was incapable of transmitting the loads from the masonry to the fabric and so a special adhesive which firmly anchors the new “seismic wallpaper” to the plaster surface was developed.
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The researchers say that In the New Zealand quake in 2011, a large number of walls crumbled and many houses collapsed completely. The scientist estimates that the seismic wallpaper could have prevented 60% to 70% of the damage.
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Bayer company will market the seismic wallpaper later in 2012 and although it will cost more than your average wallpaper, if you live in an earthquake prone region it just might be the one thing that will change your life when the earth moves.
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More information can be found on the following Bayer white paper (PDF).
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About the author

Iddo Genuth

Iddo has a B.A. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science and an M.A. in Philosophy of Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently writing his Ph.D. thesis on the relationship between the scientific community and industry. Iddo was awarded the 2006 Bar Hillel philosophy of science prize for his work on the relationship between science and technology. He is a member of the board of the lifeboat foundation and was the editor of several high-profile science and technology websites since 1999.

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