Water is often times considered to be the most powerful force on the planet. Which means, under the right circumstances, it can also be the most destructive. All you have to do is watch footage from the tsunami that occurred in Japan in 2011 to understand just how devastating a force it can be. And when the water begins rising, be it from an ocean, lake, or river, it can seem like there is no stopping it from its relentless march forward. Jorge Cueto, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Buffalo, however, has come up with an invention to try and do just that: stop floodwaters before they can ever reach homes or businesses.
Cueto came up with a patent-pending system of telescoping fiber-reinforced concrete boxes that he hopes to develop into “rise on demand” floodwalls. Think of Russian nesting dolls, but with concrete blocks.
Each section of the wall rises from another section that is just a little larger. Using a telescopic design such as this means that when the floodwalls are not needed, they will be able to retract underground so as not to block water views or roads and sidewalks, such as those around hospitals, that cannot be permanently blocked.
In order to keep the water from flooding into any open cracks that may result from where each block meets the one above and below it, Cueto is in the process of developing a system of gaskets to make the walls water tight. He is also working on expandable flaps to cover the space between each wall section.
Much of the science and plenty of technical aspects still need to be worked out before Cueto’s telescopic walls find a real-world use, but the main idea is in place and, if successful, Cueto’s invention could help prevent millions of dollars worth of damages due to floods.
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