New wallpaper stabilize and may protect against earthquakes

Earthquake secure wallpaper
Earthquake secure fiber glass wallpaper

German researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a new thin wallpaper based on glass fibers, that stabilizes walls and may protect from the devastating effect of an earthquake.

The wallpaper consists of a fine glass fiber fabric, designed to support walls and distribute the powerful lateral forces produced by earthquakes across their entire surfaces and therefore also protect them from collapsing.

Since the material covers the entire wall it also protects against falling debris, much like how a laminated windscreen in a modern car works. If the integrity of the wall gets compromised by forces greater then the material can handle, the eventual debris would be constrained and held back by the wallpaper glass fiber skin.

The full name for this wallpaper is “Intelligent composite seismic wallpaper”, but its inventors simply call it “earthquake wallpaper.” For the concept to work the materials used must be very firm and durable, but at the same time flexible and elastic enough to absorb the earthquake tremors. The fabric consists of two components to achieve these important features. Very stiff and high strength glass fibers, that are woven into a wallpaper together with an elastic polypropylene plastic. The fibers also run in four directions to ensure that the energy absorption is distributed evenly.

Wallpaper fixed to wall with a special adhesive
Wallpaper fixed to wall with a special adhesive

Since the wallpaper is intended to protect against strong lateral forces, and potentially save lives, ordinary wallpaper glue can not be used. The adhesive needs to share the elastic nature of the wallpaper, and also be strong enough to secure it to the wall, and keep it there under large moments. KIT researchers therefore worked together with Bayer Material Science, that developed a special glue for this purpose. The glue is based on polyurethane with chemical groups that interact in a mesh network via hydrogen bonding. Bonds that are loosened by tremors reform immediately at another spot, but they don’t tear apart.

“Our earthquake wallpaper is optimal for a medium-strong earthquake”, said Mortiz Urban, a co-developer and researcher at KIT. The wallpaper, is suitable only for brick buildings but not those made of concrete, which the wallpaper can’t stabilize. Stronger carbon fibers are necessary for that, but the German research team is already working on a new material for this purpose.

The product will launch for global marketing this year. Initially it will not be sold in home furnishing stores, but rather through partners supplying home builders and craftsmen. The way this new type of earthquake protection works and is applied, it can quite easily and quickly secure already existing buildings. Potential markets that might consider this solution are earthquake rich regions such as Turkey, Japan, Chile and also parts of the U.S.

Like proper wallpaper, earthquake wallpaper can be applied to a plastered wall, which can then be either painted or decorated with normal wallpaper. Since the material is highly porous, damp walls and the resulting mould pose no problems, according to Urban. Another variant of the earthquake wallpaper allows buildings to be covered with the material from the outside as well.

Video demonstration: