November 23, 2016: To protect buildings from earthquakes, scientists are developing large structures which are inspired by ‘cloaking’ materials for sound and light.
Much like sound and light, Earthquakes too travel in waves. Previously, scientists have designed materials with internal structures that interfere with the propagation of light and sound.
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Recently, the researchers at the Imperial College London in UK with collaborators in France are trying to make larger versions of these structures, and that could be used to control the propagation of earthquakes.
Trees act as resonators, and they oscillate at certain frequencies, even at long wavelengths.
“In the right arrangement, the interaction of resonating trees can redirect the energy of seismic waves deep into the soil, reducing damage.”
Researchers said,” This approach is based on metamaterials, artificial arrangements of resonators with unusual electromagnetic properties.”
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Metamaterial or ‘invisibility cloaks’ have already been used to make tiny objects invisible to the eye by redirecting the light waves. Recently, larger versions could be created to emulate the resonance of trees and make the buildings ‘invisible’ to earthquakes.
According to PTI, Professor Richard Craster, Head of the Department of Mathematics at Imperial said,”Wouldn’t it be great if we could surround a historic castle or a nuclear power station with a metamaterial, so that when the seismic waves come at it they are sent around or diverted into the ground.”
“The building would remain perfectly still, not damaged. This is what we want to do,” said Craster.
Dr Andrea Colombi, also from Imperial, with Craster and colleagues, demonstrated how a dense forest behaves as a natural seismic metamaterial.
By generating the vibrations from a crane and by measuring the effects with seismometers, they found out that the resonating trees do offer local protection against surface waves of certain frequencies.
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Researchers saw, in a natural forest, the irregular height of trees and the gaps between them offer protection against larger range of frequencies than that a uniform array would.
The trees would cover an even wider range of seismic frequencies, if they are arranged by decreasing height
Scientists call it a ‘metawedge’, which can be created with real trees or poles acting as artificial resonators.
Craster added.”Another thing we care about is, for example, the vibration coming from railway lines.”
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