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Japan Hardware

Japan Creates Earthquake-Proof Levitating House System 243

An anonymous reader writes "Japanese company Air Danshin Systems Inc. has developed an innovative system that levitates houses in the in the event of an earthquake to protect them from structural damage. When an earthquake hits, a sensor responds within one second by activating a compressor, which forces an incredible amount of air under the home, pushing the structure up and apart from its foundation. The air pressure can keep the home levitating up to 3cm from the shaking foundation below. In the wake of last year's Fukushima disaster the company is set to install the levitation system in 88 houses across Japan."
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Japan Creates Earthquake-Proof Levitating House System

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  • So (Score:5, Funny)

    by maroberts ( 15852 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @01:36AM (#39205633) Homepage Journal

    The house is not firmly attached to the foundations except by this glorified airbag.

    Don't they also get typhoons there?

    I eagerly await the Japanese sequel to the Wizard of Oz.......

    • "We, Kansas, in detail is not." - translationing "Toto, we're not in Kansas any more" into Japanese and then back again curtesy of translation.babylon.com!


    • What's even more fun is that they get tsunamis there. House on top of an air cushion, streets filled with water, what could possibly go wrong?

  • by VinylRecords ( 1292374 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @01:49AM (#39205663)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NubZJA4c_Rw [youtube.com]

    Seems like it would require an awful lot of force just to float a small house. An interesting idea that might be useful in other areas. But I don't see how this could catch on long term for things like apartment buildings or skyscrapers.

    And let's not forget that it wasn't so much the earthquake that devastated Japan. But it was the wall of water that mowed down everything in its path.

    • by zooblethorpe ( 686757 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:17AM (#39205777)

      And let's not forget that it wasn't so much the earthquake that devastated Japan. But it was the wall of water that mowed down everything in its path.

      I'm not sure if you're aware, but earthquakes are much more common in Japan than tsunami are. Remember Kobe? There's a list of major earthquakes in Japan [wikipedia.org] that might put things in perspective. Saving houses from substantial earthquake damage would be a major gain for the country.

      (Mind, I'm not saying that tsunami aren't an issue -- just that earthquakes are also an issue, and a different problem set.)


    • by mpe ( 36238 )
      Seems like it would require an awful lot of force just to float a small house.

      The other problems include:
      Lifting it without doing damage to the structure/contents
      Needing to accuratly land the house back on its foundations.
      How well it copes with vertical movement of the ground.
      What happens in the case of ground liquifaction.
    • by JanneM ( 7445 )

      Large structures sometimes use rubber and metal dampers that allows the structure to "float" in a similar manner. It makes for a much lighter construction as the actual building above the damping system doesn't need nearly as much reinforcement as a traditional earthquake-resistant design. The K supercomputer in Kobe is housed in such a structure, for instance.

      • That raises the question that has been puzzling me:

        We already have a variety of options(elastomeric materials, springs, damped shock absorbers, etc, etc.) for building structures that are 'decoupled' from the ground enough to protect them from shaking with minimal moving parts and no active sensors, compressors, motors, etc. WHY would it possibly make sense to use a system that depends on the continued function and reliability of an active sensor system and a fast-acting compressed gas apparatus if you c
  • and generating the amount of air pressure to lift a house + all its belongings + its occupants takes how long? what if the power is knocked out in 500ms or less? why not make those rubber bushing systems more affordable instead of involving computer controlled "systems"

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      what if the power is knocked out in 500ms or less?

      Not to worry, they've got nuclear power in Japan, it's proven to be very reliable during an earthquake. :^P

    • If I were doing this I would fill the bag from a CO2 tank. CO2 tanks are even commonly used in lieu of a compressor within city limits now.

  • by zill ( 1690130 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:08AM (#39205741)
    For planes and airships there's that whole "Oh no we're losing altitude, let's push the fat guy out" trope.

    I wonder what's the weight limit for this little gizmo.
  • by w0mprat ( 1317953 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:21AM (#39205811)
    I just want a levitating house! Anyone for house air hockey?
  • The quakes in Japan, Haiti and California usually goes along with tremendous lateral displacements, so how will this help?
    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      The quakes in Japan, Haiti and California usually goes along with tremendous lateral displacements, so how will this help?

      Isn't that exactly what this type of system is supposed to protect from? It doesn't matter if the ground below shifts laterally by a few feet, after the quake is over you just power on the compressor and get a few friends to help recenter it on the foundation.

      Now a vertical displacement is a much bigger problem with this system...

  • Brings to mind the Ben Bova novel [amazon.com] where skyscrapers were actually huge rocket boosters. At the slightest hint of an earthquake they flew out into the ocean for a safe splashdown.

  • How much is an "incredible amount" of air? Can someone possibly explain this "air floating" concept in terminology of cars? Thanks.

  • by tp1024 ( 2409684 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:41AM (#39205899)
    The earthquake and tsunami was the disaster, not the accident at Fukushima. There were dead people from the nuclear accident and 50,000 evacuated (not counting those in the evacuation zone whose houses have been destroyed by the tsunami) is a lot less worse than the earthquake's and tsunami's 20.000 dead + 500,000 evacuated.

    Half a million were evacuated from utterly destroyed houses in an area now prohibited from permanent human habitation because of the tsunami hazard ... and the unwillingness of the Japanese to raise tsunami protection of cities, which reasonably enough was the same height for cities as for nuclear power plants, from 6m to 16m. Strangely enough, there was no finger pointing and no complaints about lacking tsunami protection of cities, where ... well, you know, people live (and died) and didn't get an advance warning of 2 days to evacuate before the tsunami hit.
    • by tp1024 ( 2409684 )
      Of course, there were no dead people from the nuclear accident - unless you're counting the one man who died from a heart attack in the aftermath. (One crane operator died in Fukushima Daini because of the earthquake and two people were swept away by the tsunami in Daiichi. Not even the explosions killed anyone, because people were warned of elevated hydrogen concentrations by instruments dedicated to just that purpose. The hazard was known [jsme.or.jp], but the Japanese decided not to do anything about it by upgrading
    • . There were dead people from the nuclear accident and 50,000 evacuated (not counting those in the evacuation zone whose houses have been destroyed by the tsunami) is a lot less worse than the earthquake's and tsunami's 20.000 dead + 500,000 evacuated.

      The health cost of the releases of radioactive material from Fukushima Daiichi is incalculable. They were numerous and they were, in some cases, quite hot. And that's disregarding utterly the flushes into the ocean, or the likelihood of seepage.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Raising walls is not really the answer for dealing with tsunami. They are looking at other options like placing things under the surface of the sea which will remove a lot of the energy from the wave, making it smaller.

  • So what does the shantytown version look like?

  • Power Outage? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SpaghettiWestern ( 2575627 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:45AM (#39205923)
    The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was screwed because most of the power generators were installed in a basement that was subsequently flooded and therefore useless to keep the pumps going to pump fresh seawater in to cool the cores, causing ongoing level 7 meltdowns at three reactors.

    From the wikipedia page ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_Nuclear_Power_Plant [wikipedia.org] ):
    "The reactor's emergency diesel generators and DC batteries, crucial components in helping keep the reactors cool in the event of a power loss, were located in the basements of the reactor turbine buildings. The reactor design plans provided by General Electric specified placing the generators and batteries in that location, but mid-level engineers working on the construction of the plant were concerned that this made the back up power systems vulnerable to flooding. TEPCO elected to strictly follow General Electric's design in the construction of the reactors."

    The design basis for [the plant] for tsunamis was 5.7 meters. The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5 metres.
    Around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan were left without electricity and 1.5 million without water.
    Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster [wikipedia.org], http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_T%C5%8Dhoku_earthquake_and_tsunami [wikipedia.org]

    So say right that the power to the Air Danshin Systems Inc installation is taken out by an earthquake and there is no 'levitating' to be had? Aftershocks?

    I doubt each installation would have its own generator and even if it did it would have to be left running in order to be able to kick in if power was lost.

    Lessons learned, maybe not.
  • by tick-tock-atona ( 1145909 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:52AM (#39205941)

    I don't care if it's practical or not - it's damn cool!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzSuuk4um44 [youtube.com]

  • 1. House goes up on air cushion.
    2. Ground below shifts sideways several meters.
    3. House goes down off its foundation.

    • by JanneM ( 7445 )

      4. Everybody survived and most belongings are fine, unlike the house next door that collapsed over its occupants.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

      1. House fails to go up on air cushion since the compressor did not start due to brown outs caused by 10 million other compressors attempting to draw power at the same time.

      2. Transformers and substations explode all over Japan, and emergency services are left without power.

      3. Occupants die, but at least are saved the embarassment of realizing how much money their government obliged them to waste on a useless system when they made installation mandatory.

  • It is 1st March, not 1st April. I'm still not convinced, maybe someone got the month wrong.

  • I just think that rubber vibration mounts would be so much simpler.
    • by JanneM ( 7445 )

      Small mounts can handle only small displacements. Large mounts are frequently used for large buildings but are too big for single-family homes and small commercial buildings.

  • . . . when their basement lairs are filled with compressed air!

    . . . um, maybe it's time to think about moving into the attic . . .

  • ... and some big rubber bands ... in 2 directions.

  • by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:26AM (#39206243)

    ...the ground moves more than 3cm (in any direction)? It happens in major quakes; the 2006 tsunami was the result of the sea floor dropping over 2m. I've been through a 5-pointer [thisisnottingham.co.uk], and the ground certainly moved more than 3cm, although it did move back as rapidly as it shifted. That one moved my entire house probably four inches and back, causing major structural damage (buckled window and doorframes, two cracks from foundation to roof) which is still being repaired after four years.. almost to the day, in fact(!).

  • The Fukushima disaster was a lot more than an earthquake. It was a tsunami!! Levitate your house off its foundation? Just makes it easier to wash away! You've got a house-boat and surf-board now.

  • Nice to know, especially when an earthquake starts and every hous in Japan starts to draw power at the same time to run their compressors. Combine maximum demand with the period of maximum likelyhood of power failure and what do you get? Something that sounds really neat on paper with the only practical use of chasing dumb people with VC dollars. Japan would benefit much more in making their houses say, waterproof...
  • If the resonant frequency of the house moving backward and forward on the cushion is within the frequency of earth oscillations then this could make things worse rather than better!
  • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @07:48AM (#39206867)

    "...I can install this little blue button to get you down."

  • Overkill (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@NoSpam.gmail.com> on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:31AM (#39207351) Journal

    Passive solutions already exist that can handle this. Basically the house is built on a platform that has domed feet (or roller-balls) that rest in metal bowls embedded in a traditional foundation. When the earthquake hits, the massive inertia of the house easily overcomes the high friction at these movement points, and the house nearly stays still while the ground moves underneath it. The bowls allow plenty of travel and have vertical sides to minimize the chance of the house skipping off the lower foundation entirely.

    Inertia is a powerful thing, as an example one time I had to get my dad to give my little Samurai a tow to the shop. I tried to explain about carefully taking up the slack on the tow strap before moving, but as usual he couldn't be bothered with all my "nerdy overanalysis" and he just took off with a good 4-6 feet of slack in the strap. His crossover bounced back like it was tied to a tree (lucky the strap didn't snap), and he said that's what it felt like, and asked it I was holding the brakes down. Nope, that's little more than just the inertia of a 2300lb object.

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