During the final week of February 2013, the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed 214 earthquakes worldwide, from Russia to the Dominican Republic to the Philippines. Earthquakes are everyday occurrences in areas where major geologic masses collide, and building collapses and falling debris cause the most injuries. The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), a public corporation in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, recently announced the commercial availability of a glass fiber plastic composite material that stabilizes buildings and holds debris in place. The innovation gives people the extra seconds they need to escape a shuddering building and increases the likelihood that damaged structures can be rebuilt.
KIT researchers worked with Dr. Günther Kast GmbH & Co KG, a manufacturer of technical tissues, to develop “Sisma Calce,” now sold by building material company Röfix, located in quake-prone Italy. The material is papered onto the walls of older buildings, after which an appropriate plaster is applied. The high stiffness and tensile strength of the glass fibers in the plaster-integrated fabric reduces tensile stresses during earthquakes. Should the seismic tissue rupture, the elastic polypropylene fibers will hold the broken wall segments together. The fiber stretches and thereby reduces the energy of the earthquake’s horizontal acceleration forces. It can be applied as a “prophylactic dressing” during building renovations, according to KIT inventors Lothar Stempniewski and Moritz Urban.