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Super-storm Sandy has devastated parts of the US east coast, leading President Barack Obama to declare a "major disaster" in New York state.New York, the country's most populous city, is among the worst-hit, with floodwaters swamping the subway system, flooding low-lying streets and wiping out power. Heavy flooding in Battery Park on the tip of Manhattan led to water gushing into the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.
Pedestrians walk past a submerged taxi in Brooklyn which was badly affected by the widespread flooding caused by Storm Sandy. An American fabric technology company specializing in the manufacture of space suits for NASA introduces a commercially viable inflatable product that offers cost-effective multi-point protection against flooding for underground infrastructure. As the effects of global warming and climate change accelerate the apparent frequency of extreme weather events around the world, the need to protect vital and expensive underground infrastructure from flooding and storm surges has never been an issue more sharply in focus. It is not without irony that the recent inundation of transit tunnels, subway stations and tunneling projects under construction in the New York City and New Jersey metropolitan area has catapulted a new solution to the forefront of the debate about the development of a cost-effective way to protect existing and under-construction tunnels against the sort of devastating flood that may either never happen, or at least may not happen for decades. Try telling that to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York City and the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, whose subway and traffic tunnels suffered massive and crippling damage in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. In light of such huge rehabilitation costs, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York is reportedly interested in the protection offered by a new invention and innovation developed by ILC Dover in Delaware, USA.
What makes the simple concept of an air-filled plug so attractive is that it comes with two main benefits. Filled with either air or water, the RTP expands to plug the kind of broadly circular, though slightly irregular, shapes that typify working tunnels and their accompanying peripheral architecture of rail tracks, cables, junction boxes and other structures.
ILC Dover, the fabric technology company and design and commercial manufacturer of the plug, has a 30-year history of developing astronaut suits for the American space agency NASA.
Commercial confidentiality prevented Cadogan identifying the first customer, but he confirmed that the installation will be for "multiple tunnels".
There has also been keen interest from both Korea and Japan, with offers of a possible commercial partnership to help market the technology at a fast-growing Far East market in a region which already has some of the world's longest under-sea crossings. The RTP itself is of cylindrical design that is fixed in place by friction against the tunnel wall following inflation with high air pressure. The structural material is made of Vectran™ fibers which provide excellent strength at a minimum structural volume so that small packing volumes can be achieved.

Since the structure must be a cylindrical high-pressure system, constructed in its entirety from soft materials that can pack down very small, one of the key design elements is the webbing layer transition to the end caps. Two years of product design, development and testing culminated in a successful full-scale test in a mockup tunnel at WVU and at pressures of up to 25psi (1.7 bar). But not only is the RTP effective, it is also highly adaptable to the large variations in cross-section and shape as presented by the global tunnel industry. As TunnelTalk reported in November 2012, tide gates proved effective in preventing damage to the Virginia Midtown highway tunnel, but retrofitting gates into other underground infrastructure would not only be expensive, it could also mean shutting down vital infrastructure during the work. Cadogan said: "People in the industry have told us that the reason they are very excited about the RTP is because the modifications required to the tunnel itself to allow fitting are minimal. While the RTP, in its current evolution, is designed specifically for installation inside tunnels at strategic points below the waterline (rather than as simple plugs at tunnel portals), Cadogan has no doubts that the technology could be adapted to provide the sort of rapid-deployment solution that might have helped save New York's subway and traffic tunnels during Superstorm Sandy.
An unprecedented 13 ft (3.9m) surge of seawater - 3 ft (90 cm) above the previous record - submerged parts of lower Manhattan.
The storm has left the city's public transport crippled and 600,000 people in the New York area without power. In advance of the storm New York Governor Andrew Cuomo closed all New York City bus, subway and commuter rail services. Peter Kenyon investigates the development of the Resilient Tunnel Plug, a product that is attracting considerable interest from tunnel owners in the wake of the devastation caused to New York City's underground infrastructure by the November 2012 Superstorm Sandy. The Brooklyn-Battery traffic tunnel took on 43 million gallons of water during the 13.7ft storm surge.
Named the Resilient Tunnel Plug (RTP), the innovation is a device that inflates in just two minutes and to a full internal pressure within 15-20 minutes. It is relatively cheap to manufacture and fit, when weighed against the relatively small (though nonetheless devastating) risk of a serious 100-year inundation event and there is ease and minimal disruption involved in retrofitting the device at about any location within an existing underground network.
In recent times it has been working on the development of lightweight and resilient inflatable structures and space domes that can be deployed quickly and easily in the lunar environment. It features a three-layer fabric design comprising an outer macro-woven webbing, a secondary protective textile layer and a coated fabric pressure-retention layer, or bladder, the main purpose of which is to retain the air that inflates the whole structure (Fig 1).

To maintain the integrity of the structure around the potentially weak area where there is less available space for the webbings (i.e. The tunnel plug devices can be housed in discreet capsules attached to the tunnel wall profile and at multiple strategic locations below the waterline along the tunnel alignment. Most of the flooding from super-storm Sandy appears to be in these locations.Before and afterSee a selection of views below of parts of Manhattan and New York before and after the storm. The Queens Midtown Tunnel was inundated by more than 30 million gallons of water and many of the subway and railway service tunnels took on huge amounts of corrosive seawater. Superstorm Sandy, at its peak, caused a storm surge more than three times greater than the worst-case assumption made by NYSERDA. It is this kind of extreme material technology that ILC Dover has spent the last four years adapting for a more earthly application. This affords the ability to install intermittent protection for underground structures such as stations, by establishing a kind of isolation system similar in concept to the way bulkheads along a ship's length afford protection against sinking in the event of a hull rupture (Fig 3). The project is a partnership led by the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, West Virginia University and ILC Dover. At the extreme ends, where there is no room at all for webbing or rope, integrity depends on an oversized secondary layer. It also enables isolation of locations that are particularly vulnerable to water ingress, such as ventilation shafts and access points. The recently started TBM drive under New York harbor for a new water supply siphon main to Staten Island was overtopped the working shaft and completely flooded the TBM and heading with seawater. The tunnel and underground works for the 2nd Ave Subway and the East Side Access project to bring Long Island Rail Road services into Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan were also under threat. Close Close United States Canada Mexico United Kingdom Spain Australia Hong Kong Taiwan Singapore Visit our global site Close Get $5 in Free CASHBACK with your first order!

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