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Wireless Networking Science Hardware

Nanotech and Wireless Guard Against Earthquakes 45

Roland Piquepaille writes "Two separate efforts using technology to protect people from earthquakes have recently been in the news. At the University of Leeds, UK, researchers will use nanotechnology and RFID tags to build a 'self-healing' house in Greece. The house's walls will contain nanoparticles that turn into a liquid when squeezed under pressure, flow into cracks, and then harden to form a solid material. The walls will also host a network of wireless sensors and RFID tags that can alert the residents to an imminent earthquake. Meanwhile, another team at the Washington University in St. Louis is using a wireless sensor network to limit earthquake damages."
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Nanotech and Wireless Guard Against Earthquakes

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  • by Reverse Gear ( 891207 ) * on Monday April 16, 2007 @02:03AM (#18747485) Homepage
    I remain skeptical of the idea of the self healing house, I think that it might work in just the opposite direction of what is intended if not very careful, kind of like if the dampers in the other article linked to gets out of sync with the waves of the quake (or maybe rather into sync) creating resonance instead of weakening the resonance.

    First thing I don't like about this idea of nano-particles turning into liquid is this. Imagine a solid structure being put under pressure, as the pressure increased a tiny fraction of the material is turned into liquid, my immediate idea is that this would weaken the structure increasing the risk of a collapse. Sure it might be nice if the liquid later filled out the tiny cracks in the structure, but if the entire thing has collapsed by then, what good will it do?
    The second thing I don't like is that these cracks that will be filled out in structure represent unevenness in the entire structure. I can't help but think that it would resemble using uneven bricks for a house. I can see that this could give extra strength to the building if they are used very carefully, but if you just put one uneven block into an entire building it will make it more unstable.
    Maybe if the blocks are to uneven they will liquefy and turn into the right structure for creating the most possible strength, I guess it depends on how much pressure would be put on a given unevenness.
    Also wouldn't this leave the building a lot more vulnerable to the next earthquake?
    All this is said knowing very little about the detail of this idea, it is just my immediate thoughts being confronted with this.

    The idea to have the building itself alert the inhabitants is nice, it would especially be nice if the building would warn if there had been a minor quake that is not noticeable for humans but still might be the warning that a bigger quake will soon happen.
  • Misleading title.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @02:29AM (#18747601) Journal
    Sheesh, " Nanotech and Wireless Guard Against Earthquakes" makes it sound like they have something that works on actual earthquakes. Technically these technologies do not guard, the attempt to limit damage done to structures during an earthquake. This is a far cry from guarding against something.

    An automotive airbag does not "guard against" accidents!

    We all know about how much damage an airbag deployment causes, I wonder how much actual damage these technologies can prevent. Getting everyone out alive is important, but if the remaining structure is left distorted and unrepairable, the cost will probably be more than most want to spend. Safety is one thing, going broke just in case is another.

  • by ushering05401 ( 1086795 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @02:53AM (#18747705) Journal
    i grew up in southern california and went through many earthquakes. paying attention to things like securing brick facades, anchoring furniture to walls, and buying adhesive pads for the bases of vases etc combined with improved building codes has nearly eradicated earthquake related deaths in that area.

    my question is... could this whole gap filling technology be used to upgrade security for space vehicles..

    i can't find links but read something about micro-meteorite protection systems already (i think) in place.

    can anyone with better knowledge chip in here?
  • Re:boycottroland (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Punch-Drunk Slob ( 973904 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @03:14AM (#18747785)
    WTF? A post containing only the word "WTF" is modded interesting? Can anyone mod this interesting as well? Help free me from bad karma.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @03:55AM (#18747941) Homepage

    It's Roland the Plogger again.

    This sounds like a variation on self-sealing gas tanks [wikipedia.org], which were first used widely on World War II aircraft.

    It's not all that hard to make earthquake-resistant buildings. You just have to have materials and joints with tensile strength. Steel frame buildings are seldom damaged by earthquakes. Wooden buildings with metal plates reinforcing the joints hold up well. Reinforced concrete does fine if there's enough rebar in the right places and the rebar is welded together.

  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @03:59AM (#18747963)
    Many old mortars such as lime absorb CO2 and get harder with time. If lime mortar cracks while young, it will absorb CO2 and fill up those cracks.
  • by Halo1 ( 136547 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @05:31AM (#18748263)

    Imagine a solid structure being put under pressure, as the pressure increased a tiny fraction of the material is turned into liquid, my immediate idea is that this would weaken the structure increasing the risk of a collapse.

    I'm not sure. If nothing can liquify, then the high pressure will make everything crumble. A pile of sand, so to speak, doesn't have much structural integrity. Conversely, if part of the pressurised solids convert to liquid and thereby keep the rest of the solid material whole, I would think overall integrity would be stronger since the pressure which caused the liquifying in the first place also keeps everything pressed together. And once the pressure stops the liquids solidify again, thereby reinforcing the building's own structural integrity again in the absence of external pressure.

  • by chtank ( 83512 ) <chtank@gmail.com> on Monday April 16, 2007 @09:55AM (#18749747) Homepage Journal
    Oh come on guys, wouldn't it be better to understand who it works before saying this it not going to work. WE have had self-sealing fueltanks in military aircraft since WWII which uses a similiquid to fill the hole and seal if from fuel loss. NASA is (has) developed self healing composites for the skin of aircraft and spacecraft from the nanotechnology research. From an engineering standpoint, when we have new and revolutionary ideas put forth it means someone is thinking and not simply reacting against anything new or different. One of the lessons learned in life is that nothing remains the same, change is the constant. This has been put up before, but for those who want to think a little, here it is again: http://www.nano.gov/ [nano.gov].

Some people manage by the book, even though they don't know who wrote the book or even what book.