About the project

The Iinflater_floodNFLATER project is a novel strategy to help EU member states implement flood management, given that floods continue to threaten the personal and economic lives of European businesses and citizens. In addition, there is significant concern for Europe’s cultural heritage and the potential loss of historic structures. In response to severe floods, the Commission has taken the initiative to launch a concerted action, at the Community level, to help reduce the severity of flood events and the damage caused by them. The project facilitates the EU’s efforts towards:

  • Prevention: preventing damage caused by floods
  • Protection: taking measures, both structural and non-structural, to reduce the likelihood of floods and/or the impact of floods in a specific location.
  • Preparedness: the INFLATER technology automatically responds to increasing water levels, protecting land, and property even when the owner is away.
  • Recovery: returning to normal conditions as soon as possible and mitigating both the social and economic impacts on the affected population.

The flooding of rivers has always been a problem, and thanks to advances in civil engineering humans learnt of methods to keep the river in its bed. In urban areas especially, but in rural areas as well, embankments have been built to keep the river where it belongs. Unfortunately even with embankments flooding occurs as we can see it all over Europe and the World.

Due to global warming flooding is becoming more and more common and the water level is getting so high that the presently built embankments cannot cope. At present people use sandbags as the main protection against flooding. The advantage of sandbags is that it is cheap and sand is widely available, but it requires a lot of manpower to fill and place the bags.

The aim of this project was to design and build a portable dam, which can be placed anywhere quickly, easily and does not require much manpower. The system is broken down onto two main sections. The first section includes the mechanical part, which involves the design of the inflatable section. The second section involves the electrical sensor part and wireless communication. The construction consists of three parts, the floating top section and the inflatable section with a skirt secured by fixing spikes and supporting strings. The inflatable section is connected to the skirt and secured to the grown with support strings and spikes. As the water level rises it lifts the floating part and the water is let inside the inflatable section. As the inflatable part is filled the strings go tight to support the structure. To aid the mechanical design, electrical sensors can be introduced. The sensors can be used so INFLATER can monitor itself and the river. INFLATER needs to monitor itself so it can warn if it falls or the water level gets too high. It also monitors the river to help predict its behaviour and send warnings to the surrounding areas via wireless communication to help avoid a tragedy.

DURATION:28 months

Final project outcome

INFLATER was designed with the assistance of sophisticated Finite Element Analysis and Computational Fluid Dynamics modelling techniques. With the setting up of a complex mathematical model, the most ideal shape and build material for INFLATER was selected to withstand the forces of water even in extreme conditions (high velocity parallel currents, waves, puncturing effects of debris, etc.). The design phase continued with the material characterisation and based on the final CAD drawings of the prototype, INFLATER was manufactured. The system is then became validated at laboratory scale and on the field at various test locations.

After the manufacture of INFLATER in several lengths and fittings, the prototype was tested in HR Wallingford three times, in the framework of the BSi standard procedure. The mobile flood barrier passed static water leakage and wave tests and withstood the current tests for a considerable time period. The prototype is now able to protect against one meter water level. The prototype was also tested in real life conditions near the Tisza River at Algyő and at the Dublin seashore. Further validation and product categorization is expected in the post-project phase and in the framework of the upcoming DEMO-INFLATER project, where additional features of the inflatable barrier will be introduced, including scale-up product specification and build material characterization, standardization, market entry and dissemination as a competitive product.