TEENAGE INVENTORS in Dublin have won a national award for their design of a flexible mains pipe which they say could save lives in earthquakes.
The four-layered reinforced pipe sits in a special trench resting on compressible spherical bearings which allow movement in a tremor.
The design won three pupils from Loreto Beaufort school first prize at the Irish Young Scientist & Technology awards sponsored by telecoms company Esat.
'It works a bit like an oil hose. The inner and outer layers are made of rubber with stitched and stapled textile reinforcement, ' said 13 year old team leader Clare Fletcher. A layer of tin foil and polyethylene with bubbles act as insulation around the inner tube.
The pipe, which could act as a water or gas main, sits in a rubber trench and rests on stiff rubber ball bearings which allow horizontal movement. The pipe's flexibility would allow a range of movement in earthquakes.
Clare and her 12 year old colleagues Rachel Gogan and Niamh Hogan tested the pipe in the school laboratory. 'We put around 80kg on it in the lab and it didn't compress to even half its diameter, ' she said.
Programmes on earthquake engineering prompted the design, which has not been patented.
Although motivated by a desire to save lives by preventing gas and water main fractures in earthquakes, Clare said that any financial windfall would be welcome.