Friday, November 29, 2013

MTA Tunnel Plug Will Stop Floods, Smoke and Gas

After Hurricane Sandy decimated the subway system last year, officials pledged to install new devices to help halt the rising tides—including flood gates and, more intriguingly, a device called a "tunnel plug." Although development wasn't completed in time for Hurricane Sandy, the huge inflatable plugs likely could have saved many of New York's subway tunnels from storm-related flooding. 

During a "Sandy Resilience Tour" last week, the MTA unveiled a working prototype of the plug, which was installed for testing.

The strong inflatable tube deploys from a folded-up wall panel to fill every nook and cranny of the tunnel where it's installed—halting not only flood waters, but also smoke from fires, gas attacks and other perils.

The plug was designed by a Delaware company called ILC Dover, which contracts for the Department of Defense and NASA (their logo is a tiny astronaut). In fact, the super-tough material they use to build the plugs is similar to the stuff they use to make space suits.

[See ElectricWeb | Blogger, Nov 25, 2012]

Originally developed as part of a project for Homeland Security, these plugs are designed to withstand 17 pounds per square inch of force using a super-strong pressurized plug with an internal capacity of roughly 35,000 gallons, according to a government report.

Though it's unclear which subway stations the MTA plans to deploy the plugs, it seems likely that we're about to see more of them soon—the MTA and ILC Dover are testing a similar tensile curtain on the at the 207 Street subway station in upper Manhattan.

And they won't just be used in subway tunnels: Similar deployments could stop passage through stairwells, hallways, and other spaces.

Conversations with other attendees during the MTA tour yielded a single resounding comment: That thing looks like a giant tampon.

All jokes aside, there's actually a connection: ILC Dover was originally part of International Latex Corporation—which eventually became Playtex.

American engineering at work!

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