The West Virginia University College of Engineering and Mineral Resources announced today they conducted a successful performance test of a Resilient Tunnel Plug for isolating sections of transit or rail tunnels in response to events, such as flooding, release of chemical/biological agents or other threats.

The RTP is a 16.2-foot diameter x 32-foot long inflatable structure capable of blocking the flow of pressurized liquid and gas through a tunnel. Testing was performed in WVU’s full-scale tunnel facility, a 50-foot long x 16.2-foot diameter steel tunnel mock-up that can be configured to emulate a variety of real tunnel geometries and operating conditions.

The RTP was initially deployed in the confined environment of the tunnel, demonstrating successful conformance of the RTP to the internal features of the mock-up tunnel. Then it was pressurized to reach the desired operating conditions. Further, water was introduced into the closed end of the tunnel behind the plug and water pressure was increased to simulate a flooding event.

This was the first ever test of this type, demonstrating the feasibility of the RTP to block the undesired flow. A team of students, faculty, and staff with expertise in civil and mechanical engineering developed the unique facility and have performed a series of tests with different plug variants.

“The successful test demonstrates the high quality of the innovations and hard work of the team,” said Ever Barbero, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at WVU. “We are now confident that we will be able to optimize the system and deliver it to the user for field implementation in the near future.”

Development of the RTP technology is conducted in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and ILC Dover under the sponsorship of the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate.



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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, CEMR