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Fighting earthquake damage with fabric

Advanced Textiles, Industry News | October 7, 2009 | By:

A group of 27 companies in 13 countries is on a mission to research, develop and manufacture sensor-embedded textiles for use in geotechnical and masonry applications. The European Union partially funds POLYTECT (Polyfunctional Technical Textiles against Natural Hazards) to find technical textiles made with carbon and glass fibers to stabilize structures damaged by earthquakes, landslides or other natural disasters.

“The idea is simply to make architectural structures more like the human body, and to build a skin for those structures,” says Thomas B. Messervey, structural engineer for D’Appolonia SpA. The POLYTECT researchers are integrating fiber optic cables into geotextiles and 3D rope-like textiles, giving engineers the potential to detect temperature changes, humidity, stiffness or chemicals in building structures, as well as pass light and information back along the sensors to find out whether soil is moving. In Central Italy, the April 2009 L’Aquila earthquake (magnitude 5.8) killed 308 people, left 50,000 homeless; and damaged historic architecture. Some of the POLYTECT prototype carbon and glass fiber textiles will help stabilize those buildings and “build a relationship with the architectural structure over time,” according to Messervey. The ideal structural health modeling would tell engineers if damage occurred, damage location, damage severity, and long-term impact on building integrity. Learn more at

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