Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham have designed new storm shelter panels made from recycled materials that have passed the National Storm Shelter Association’s tornado threat test. The new panels are a part of a new high-tech shelter they are designing.
For the live test, “15-pound two-by-fours fired from a pressure cannon were unable to penetrate the panels, made of recycled materials, in a dozen attempts.” The two-by-fours struck the panels at around 100 mph — thats the speed that projectiles usually exit a tornado that is spinning with 200 mph winds. A tornado with those wind speeds would rate as an EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, and could level even well-built homes.
By passing the NSSA’s tornado test, the panels also surpass the NSSA hurricane threat standard, which fires 9-pound two-by-fours at speeds of 60 to 75 mph.
The completion of this test is the first step toward commercial use, which the team is hoping to achieve by the 2013 tornado season. The final test will happen this fall as the fully assembled structure undergoes testing.
“Our effort to apply modern materials science to storm shelters started in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and grew more urgent after we saw 62 Alabama tornadoes in one day this past April,” says Uday Vaidya, Ph.D., a professor within the UAB Department of Materials Science & Engineering and the project leader. In 2011, tornadoes caused 551 deaths nationally — including 245 in Alabama — and property damage exceeding $28 billion.
“With an average of more than 1,370 tornadoes per year for the past three years in the United States, it’s time we changed they way storm shelters are built with the goal of saving more lives,” Vaidya says.
The panels are made of thermoplastic and fiberglass resins and fibers resulting in a stronger per-unit density than the steel used in current shelters, as well as weighing 80 percent less. The same materials are currently being used in the latest armored military vehicles.
The primary source material is discarded liner that was previously used to wrap offshore oil-rig pipes. “Recycled materials used in the experimental phase itself kept thousands of pounds of waste from landfills.”
Source: University of Alabama Birmingham
Image Credits: UAB