From Haiti to Japan, earthquakes affect billions of people worldwide. In a matter of moments, buildings can collapse due to the destructive energy from below the ground and weak spots in the structural makeup.
The devastating effects of this natural disaster have generated the impetus for the development of a “seismic wallpaper” to protect against earthquakes.
Scientists from Bayer MaterialScience, teaming with industrial and academic partners, have come up with a wall system—EQ-Top—composed of a special glass fiber fabric that is glued to the wall like wallpaper, using a flexible water-based adhesive based on the versatile polyurethane dispersion Dispercoll™ U, according to literature on the research.
“The demand for protection systems of this type is enormous. More than 1.3 billion people worldwide live in earthquake zones,” the company said in a report on the technology.
The system “ensures that masonry and walls remain stable” by “systematically strengthening the weak points in the wall,” said Michael Engel, a project manager at Bayer MaterialScience.
Tests using huge hydraulic presses to crush one segment of a wall after the other proved that walls reinforced with EQ-Top were “virtually impossible to destroy,” the researchers said.
The system works like the diagonal braces of a “half-timbered house,” by distributing the impact energy of the earthquake across the entire surface, which helps absorb the energy and prevent points-of-stress concentration such as door frames and windows from falling under the load, the company said.
Even if joints crack along the length of the wall, the glass-fiber fabric and adhesive are reported to hold the bricks together, preventing or otherwise delaying the collapse of chunks of masonry and protecting inhabitants, the company said.
The project also involved the testing of different types of adhesives before the researchers arrived at the system used, including simple wallpaper paste to specialty high-performance adhesives.
The company says the adhesive is also used to “treat” the fiber fabric, giving it a high tear strength. Another benefit is the absence of organic solvents, making the technology “ideal for indoor use,” the company said.
In addition to safety, the researchers also said an “easy-to-install” quality was given high priority. “EQ-Top can be easily installed by ordinary paperhangers,” Engel said.
“The starting point for the work was to improve seismic protection in Romania, one of the regions in Europe at greatest risk from earthquakes,” said Professor Lothar Stempniewski, director of the Institute for Concrete Construction and Construction Materials at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) in Germany, and one of the scientists involved in the development.
Bayer MaterialScience reported that the system will soon “go on the market, giving people in earthquake zones a few more seconds and protecting many of them from the worst consequences of earthquakes.”
The researchers concluded that the system could have prevented some of the worst consequences of recent earthquakes, Bayer MaterialScience said.
Specifically, the researchers said that if the wallpaper been utilized in buildings in New Zealand during an earthquake in early 2011, approximately 60% to 70% of the damage could have been prevented.
More information: www.research.bayer.com/seismic-wallpaper.