The Germans at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed an inexpensive fabric called “Sisma Calce,” translating to "earthquake lime," which is plastered on the wall of older buildings for reducing earthquake damage and allowing survivors to escape without harm from falling debris.
The textile material is composed of glass fibers and elastic polypropylene fibers laid in four directions to add strength, embedded in mortar. A special plaster holds it to the exterior walls of existing older brick buildings. This reinforces the walls and prevents cracks from forming due to earthquake stress, especially successful in small to medium quakes. In more severe earthquakes, the fabric holds the building together until repairs can be made.
A severely damaged home in the city of Pavia, Italy in the Abruzzi region is being repaired with the new fabric. It is in an area near the town of L'Aquila where in April 2009 a major earthquake struck. After the "seismic wallpaper" has been applied, the building will be shaken for earthquake simulation to see how it holds up. On an interesting side note, six scientists and a former government official were sentenced to six years in prison because they did not accurately predict the L'Aquila earthquake in which 309 inhabitants died.
The fabric can also be used to repair non-earthquake related cracks that occur simply from settling. Research is ongoing for using the fabric on concrete. The developers, Lothar Stempniewski and Moritz Urban, are working on applying the findings to masonry and concrete walls and for interior use. Stempniewski says, “The challenge in the case of concrete is the higher force that must be absorbed. We thus test new materials such as carbon fibers."
KIT's Reinforced Concrete and Building Materials Department, located in Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, along with an Italian company, D’Appolonia S.p.A. and other partners in science and industry, received the JEC Innovation Award in Paris, acknowledging "outstanding innovation in composite materials." They worked together under the POLYTECT (Polyfunctional Technical Textiles against Natural Hazards) EU project, whose mission is the development of intelligent textiles that protect structures from natural hazards. The award is based on technical interest, market potential, partnership, financial impacts, and originality.
KIT is a public corporation which forms a triangle of research, teaching and innovation as both a national research center and a university for the Helmholtz Association. The product is being marketed by a subsidiary of the German Fixit Group, Italian manufacturer Röfix. Because their website is in Italian, it proved too difficult to find a price for the fabric or the plaster. For more information, contact Monika Landgraf, PKM Abteilung Presse, phone +49 721 608.48126 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the United States, there is a company called QuakeWrap® out of Tucson, Arizona which has been using fiberglass and resin to repair earthquake damaged structures for several years. Just how this product compares to the German developed product is unknown since specs for the Röfix version are in Italian. Watch the attached video to see QuakeWrap® being applied to a building in Pittsburgh, PA.