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Development of a universal flood protection tool using the force of the water to protect against floods

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Goodbye to sandbags

An EU project developed an inflatable dam to hold back flood waters. Results from the testing of three prototypes successfully demonstrated the principle of the automatic and portable device as a flood protection tool.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment

Traditional methods used to contain flooded rivers — embankments and sand-bags — are extremely labour intensive. Furthermore, global warming will mean more frequent and severe floods, straining such methods to breaking point. An EU-funded project proposed a portable, inflatable barrier to protect specific sensitive locations against flood waters. The INFLATER consortium involved 9 members in the 28-month venture, which concluded in January 2014. The automatic system consisted of a mechanical sub-system, involving floating components and a skirt, plus a sensor and communication module. The group began with detailed stakeholder questionnaires to assess current and expected flood-protection factors, including legislation and technologies. The information aided the study and subsequent modelling of the behaviour of previous floods. Team members prepared design models and documentation for three prototype versions. The prototypes, one of which included the sensor unit, were manufactured and tested. The standard laboratory testing method according to the 30 minute JONSWAP wave spectrum with a mean period of 1.03 s and 100 mm wave height was adapted and also currents less than 1.5 m/s. Results showed that the device automatically deployed with rising flood levels and deflated as the flood receded. The system can also be easily folded and transported. The project also conducted field tests in Dublin and Hungary. The results yielded a Best Practice Guide. In addition, the group devised and conducted a training programme. INFLATER resulted in a versatile and automatically self-inflating flood barrier that monitors flood conditions and its own status, which information it also transmits wirelessly. The system offers considerable international market potential. INFLATER on YouTube.


Flood, flood protection tool, rivers, inflatable barrier, flood barrier

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