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So called ‘earthquake curtains’ being trialled in Japan

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A new tensile material made from carbon fibre is being trialled in Japan as a way of supporting buildings during earthquakes.

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Japan experiences around 1,500 earthquakes every year, making it a country that needs to be ready and waiting for seismic activity.

According to The Telegraph, no country is better prepared than Japan for earthquakes.

Buildings in the country are commonly made earthquake-proof with the use of deep foundations and shock absorbers that help dampen seismic energy. Another method in common usage allows the base of the building to move somewhat independently from the rest of it, thus reducing the shaking that is caused by an earthquake.

New method

A new method that is currently being trialled enables existing buildings to be made extremely earthquake-resistant.

It involves attaching hundreds of rods made from a high-tensile carbon fibre twine to the roof of the building, then tethering these to the ground.

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Tensile materials, such as the tensile canopy available at http://fabricarchitecture.com/ have a number of uses, but this is believed to be the first time they have been used to prevent earthquake damage.

The innovative method is being developed by Japanese textile company Komatsu Seiren, who produce the strong and flexible carbon fibre ropes.

So far, it has been trialled in the company’s own laboratory and showroom in Nomi. Pliant and tough, the carbon ropes in this approach are able to flex with any ground movement so that if the building moves to one side during an earthquake, the ropes on the opposite side will then pull it back toward the centre.

Curtain of rods

A further curtain of rods – nearly 3,000 of them – that are attached inside the building add further stability in the event of any seismic activity.

Before the rods were attached for the experiment, the building’s parapet was strengthened, and anchors were also placed around the outside of the building to add extra strength.

According to the project managers, the combination of the interior carbon mesh and the “drape” or curtain of carbon fibre outside the building mean it is far less likely to be damaged during an earthquake as the two structures serve to restrain any horizontal force created.

If the material proves to be a success, it is likely to be applied elsewhere.

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