Portable Dam for Flood Control – INFLATER appears in CORDIS WIRE

INFLATER Press release is available at CORDIS news:

Floods in Europe have been increasing at an alarming rate, with occasionally disastrous consequences. Back in the autumn of 2011, floods in France, Italy and Ireland caused huge amounts of damage to humans and property. In Italy, the river Po rose up to four metres – two children died in Genoa. A state of emergency in the Italian regions of Liguria and Tuscany was declared after mudslide-causing floods killed 10 people. Last autumn, heavy flooding in Italy again killed people in Tuscany, causing widespread disruption and chaos.

Climate change has increased the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, resulting in heavy precipitation, storms and storm surges. Year after year, serious floods continue to threaten the personal and economic lives of European citizens and businesses. They also present a danger to Europe’s cultural heritage, through the potential loss of historic structures. In response to severe floods, the European Commission has funded several projects including the INFLATER project as a concerted attempt to help reduce the severity of flooding. The project consists of an inflatable dam that uses the force of the water to protect against floods. The novelty is that this dam is portable and can be placed anywhere quickly with not a great deal of manpower.

The portable dam includes a mechanical part, which is responsible for inflation, along with electrical sensors and wireless communication. It consists of a floating top section, an inflatable section (with a skirt secured by fixing spikes) and supporting strings.

The inflatable section is connected to the skirt and secured with the support strings and spikes. As the water level rises, the floating part is lifted up, allowing water to seep inside the inflatable section. As the inflatable part is filled, the strings go tight to support the structure. Electrical sensors are used to detect water levels in rivers, and to predict the behaviour of the river. The sensors are capable of sending warnings to the surrounding areas via wireless communication to help avoid flood damages.

The technical system of the dam, based on an extensive European end-user survey, INFLATER was designed with the assistance of sophisticated Finite Element Analysis and Computational Fluid Dynamics modelling techniques. Based on 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. Based on the final CAD drawings of the prototype, INFLATER was manufactured. The system is now ready for validation on a laboratory scale and on the field at various test locations.

Finally, the project aims to provide a better understanding of flood behaviour by studying past floods and by modelling possible scenarios. It also aims to measure the need and demand for enhanced mobile flood protection tools in Europe, and to get applicable feedbacks on the system from possible European end-users.

Natural hazards and flood events are part of nature. They have always existed and will continue to exist. As far as feasible, human interference in the processes of nature should be limited and if possible, prevented. While these objectives are honourable, they will only be met over a long period of time. In the meantime, the INFLATER promises to provide an effective and flexible alternative to flood management and flood prevention.