Inflatable Structures for Hazard Mitigation
Tunnels have long been recognized as being vulnerable in the event of an attack,
accident, or natural disaster that may lead to flooding, fire, smoke, deadly gases,
or other hazards. An inflatable plug can seal off and protect the rest of the underground
system by stopping these hazards. Unlike floodgates, an inflatable plug is fast-deploying,
relatively inexpensive, and can be quickly installed in a small space in an existing
tunnel or conduit. The concept was demonstrated in August 2008 in the DC Metro System
with promising results. Later prototypes have demonstrated the ability of blocking
the flow of pressurized liquid and gas through a tunnel. Testing was performed in
WVU's full-scale tunnel facility, a 50-foot long x 16.2-foot diameter steel tunnel
mock-up that can be configured to emulate a variety of real tunnel geometries and
- To develop innovative, high–tech engineering solutions for protection of civil infrastructure.
- To provide an exceptional hands-on educational experience.
- To promote economic development in West Virginia and the surrounding region.
- Interdisciplinary team of engineering faculty, scientists, students and staff in
Mechanical/Aerospace, and Civil/Environmental Engineering.
- Partnership with manufacturing companies that can produce custom-made high strength
fabrics, inflatable structures at different scales, and all ancillary system components
- Partnership with US government laboratories, transportation, and security agencies.
- Problem identification and definition of system requirements.
- Risk analysis at system and component levels.
- Design and selection of concept solutions for specific applications.
- Cost estimation.
- Identification, selection, and testing of materials.
- Detailed analysis and design of selected concepts.
- Testing of manufactured prototypes at different scales.
- Finite Element Analysis (FEA) simulation of performance of confined inflatable structures.
- Reliability and repeatability testing for transition to field implementation.
- Development of concepts of operations (CONOPS).
- Management and/or support for field implementation.
- We have multiple laboratories for testing soft-good materials, as well facilities
for testing inflatable structures at different scales and computer simulation tools
for anticipating system behavior.
- Barrie A., `Going Underground: Homeland Security Works on Tool to Prevent Tunnel
Disasters. FoxNews.com, September 05, 2008.
- Fountain, H., Holding Back Floodwaters with a Balloon, The New York Times/Science
Supplement, Nov. 19, 2012.
- Martinez X., J. F. Davalos, E. J. Barbero, E. M. Sosa, W. Huebsch, K. Means, L.
Banta, G. Thompson, Inflatable Plug for Threat Mitigation in Transportation Tunnels.
Proceedings of the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering
Conference (SAMPE 2012), Baltimore, MD, May 21-24, 2012.
- Barbero, E. J., E. M. Sosa and G. J. Thompson.
Testing of Full-Scale Confined Inflatable for the Protection of Tunnels. Proceedings
of the VI International Conference on Textile Composites and Inflatable Structures,
Structural Membranes 2013, Munich, Germany, October 9-11, 2013.
- Barbero, E. J., E. M. Sosa, X. Martinez and J.M. Gutierrez, Reliability Design Methodology
for Confined High Pressure Inflatable Structures. Engineering Structures. Volume
51, pp. 1–9, June, 2013.
For more information contact
Dr. Ever Barbero,
Professor and Principal Investigator, Tel: +1-304-293-3176