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Self-healing villa repairs cracks and monitors vibrations

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May 11, 2007

May 12, 2007 A US$18.6 million “self-healing” house will be able to resist earthquakes by sealing cracks in its walls and monitoring seismic vibrations. The walls of the house contain nano polymer particles designed to convert into liquid when under pressure, flow into cracks, and solidify. This would theoretically stabilize the structure after severe seismic trauma. Funded by the European Union, and using technology from Leed University’s NanoManufacturing Institute, the house is to be constructed in Greece by 2010.

The house walls will be built from novel load bearing steel frames and high-strength gypsum board. But they will also contain wireless, battery-less sensors and Leeds-designed radio frequency identity tags that collect vast amounts of data about the building over time, such as any stresses and vibrations, temperature, humidity and gas levels. “If there are any problems, the intelligent sensor network will alert residents straightaway so they have time to escape,” stated Professor Wilkins, of the NMI. Dr Robert Gregory of Leeds added “Even if the building totally collapsed, the sensors would still let you pinpoint the source of the fault.”

Conventional approaches to seismic management usually involve heavy structural reinforcement or continual, post-construction retrofitting. By employing nanotechnology, the self healing house could revolutionize disaster management. Nanotechnology involves making things with useful scientific properties on a tiny scale - less than one-hundred thousandth the width of a human hair. Professor Wilkins said: “We’re looking to use polymers in much tougher situations than ever before on a larger scale...Once we have the optimum design, we could quickly start producing thousands of litres of nanoparticle fluid, adding just a tiny percentage to the gypsum mix.”

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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