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Nature shows the way
Date:9/23/2011

alogous to the natural process which occurs in lianas. While researchers from the University of Freiburg under the direction of Olga Speck are busy studying the biological and chemical aspects of the model provided by liana plants, Rolf Luchsinger and Markus Rampf at Empa's Center for Synergetic Structures are working on technical solutions for polymer membranes. Luchsinger's impetus, however, concerns neither inflatable boats nor air mat-tresses but rather load-carrying pneumatic structures for lightweight construction. His tensairity beams serve as elements for quickly erected, lightweight bridges and roofing.

The study's goal is to understand under which conditions a hole plugs itself up if the foam expands on a membrane following damage. Within the scope of his dissertation, Rampf is studying this process with the help of an experimental setup which places a membrane under pneumatic pressure and then punctures it with a nail. The researchers have already achieved successful interim results. A two-component foam of polyurethane and polyester suddenly expands when exposed to the excessive pressure which arises when air rushes out of a hole.

It works in the lab, notes Luchsinger, and we're achieving high repair factors. What does this mean in the real world? Take the case of an air mattress with a volume of 200 litres. Given a certain-sized hole, previously it was necessary to pump it up every five minutes; it now holds for eight hours enough time to sleep through the night. We now know enough about the foam that we can enter into discussions with membrane manufacturers about commercializing this technology, according to Luchsinger, when describing the next steps.


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Contact: Dr. Rolf Luchsinger
rolf.luchsinger@empa.ch
41-058-765-4090
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA)
Source:Eurekalert  

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