Architects have, for obvious reasons, been fascinated with earthquakes for as long as they have been knocking over buildings. Lots of structural systems and building materials have been explored, but what about invisibility? Capitalizing on recent advances in invisible cloak technology, scientists in France and Britain think they can hide buildings from those damning shockwaves coursing through the earth. New Scientist explains the tech thusly:
The new theoretical cloak comprises a number of large, concentric rings made of plastic fixed to the Earth’s surface. The stiffness and elasticity of the rings must be precisely controlled to ensure that any surface waves pass smoothly into the material, rather than reflecting or scattering at the material’s surface.
When waves travel through the cloak they are compressed into tiny fluctuations in pressure and density that travel along the fastest path available. By tuning the cloak’s properties, that path can be made to be an arc that directs surface waves away from an area inside the cloak. When the waves exit the cloak, they return to their previous, larger size.
When it comes to installing them into buildings, they could be built into the foundations, Guenneau suggests. It should be possible to make concrete structures with the right properties. To protect a building 10 metres across, each ring would have to be about 1 to 10 metres in diameter and 10 centimetres thick.
The concentric ring design can also be scaled down, and could offer a way to control vibration in cars or other machinery, he adds.
Now if only we could perfect fire-proof buildings.
(Via Twitter, where BLDG BLOG also pointed us to what looks like a failed attempt at an earthquake-proof building–those tubes certainly look like what’s described above. Which leads us to wonder if the old jibe that “Made in China” is a sign of inferior quality no longer stands.)