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back to article Boffins splash fluids on special soggy biscuits in anti-flood demo

Chinese boffins from Beijing’s "Silicon Valley" are showing off innovative anti-flood technology – bricks that actually let the water in. Rechsand Science and Technology Group demoed the soggy bricks at its base in Zhongguancun Science Park – home to big-name domestic tech firms Lenovo, Sina and Baidu as well as international …

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300+ billion dollars from one science park

That's one hell of a science park

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Porous bricks with impurities designed to collect and hold impure water

Expect mould/fungi/anaerobic bacteria/foul stench/unhealthy amounts of airborne spores/plants getting their roots into it/probably loads more.

And it's almost designed to not resist frost damage. I don't know the details but it *sounds* like a bad idea.

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Re: Porous bricks with impurities designed to collect and hold impure water

That's not even the stupidest part of this "invention". In most places, buildings and pavement rely on ground underneath being stable, meaning dry or at least not being washed off by water. Of course, it doesn't look like Chinese have acquired that tidbit of knowledge:

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/07/05/article-2169243-13F0459E000005DC-826_964x638.jpg

http://totallycoolpix.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06062012_big_holes/holes_003.jpg

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01432/China1_1432360i.jpg

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Porous bricks with impurities designed to collect and hold impure water

As far as I can make out, water permeable brick has been widely used in China but often cheaply sourced from any number of suppliers, and frost damage has resulted in 'crunchy bricks'. These bricks are different, if the machine translation is to be believed:

"destruction of the surface tension of water permeable, and toughness, the expansion force, compressive strength, freeze-thaw resistance. This technology also won the first prize of Beijing Science and Technology Invention"

Areas in the business park paved with this brick have survived ten winters. It turns out that millions of dollars and several years research give this company more of an insight in frost damaged bricks than a commentard, shock horror.

Other gems include:

"Permeable brick once the weight will damage the park road is not allowed to re-enter the car."

" Try new tactics to children: sidewalk to find parallel lane"

http://www.rechsand.com/article/08/2012629.html

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Porous bricks with impurities designed to collect and hold impure water

>Of course, it doesn't look like Chinese have acquired that tidbit of knowledge

Yeah, local authorities take short cuts. Say it ain't so. However, that wasn't the result of using this companies bricks: http://www.rechsand.com/article/08/2012629.html is a discussion of how poor quality materials laid without following guidelines has produced 'crunchy pavements'.

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Re: Porous bricks with impurities designed to collect and hold impure water

"That's not even the stupidest part of this "invention". In most places, buildings and pavement rely on ground underneath being stable, meaning dry or at least not being washed off by water. "

There's a little bit of previous with boffins getting involved in China -- the way the 'bird problem' was dealt with worked well but the consequences hadn't been considered.

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Re: Porous bricks with impurities designed to collect and hold impure water

Yes, no doubt you're smarter than everyone who works on water-permeable paving materials.

Water-permeable road-surface materials have been used for years in a few places that see a bit of precipitation and frost, such as Massachusetts. Somehow it's survived, despite the subtle issues you raise which must have escaped the designers.

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The larger point...

...in the China Today article isn't the bricks, but rather the support the state council has given this business park:

Yang Jianhua, deputy director-general of the Administration of Zhongguancun Science Park, where Qin's company is located, said scientifically innovative companies in the Zhongguancun region achieved 1.96 trillion yuan ($313.6 billion) in sales last year, a 23.2 percent year-on-year increase.

"The government has been trying to establish a platform for the companies to transform their scientific research into real products," he said, adding that big companies including Lenovo, Baidu and Sohu originated in Zhongguancun.

The support has been mandated by the State Council, which has prioritized seven major emerging industries, including energy conservation and environmental protection, biology, IT, and new energies and materials, in its development plan for the 2011-15 period.

The Chinese are looking beyond just manufacturing products for the West.

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WTF?

Nothing new here

Permeable pavers & permeable concrete in general have been around for years. Why is this being celebrated as a significant achievement today? Did they just find someone else's IP as usual?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nothing new here

Okay, you've got to parse the machine translation, but it would appear that they have won plaudits for making their bricks frost-resistant.

http://www.rechsand.com/article/08/2012629.html

>Did they just find someone else's IP as usual?

That's a bit of conclusion to jump to! The Chinese are looking beyond just been manufacturer's for the rest of the world, are are giving the companies to the support to do R&D. On account of not being stupid.

As you say, permeable bricks are nothing new, but in China they don't last very long due to frost damage. These bricks have been shown to last many years.

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Volume issue, amongst other things.

My basement is lined with far fewer cubic feet of bricks than it can hold in cubic feet of water. Or, put another way, toss a skip-load of this Chinese "miracle brick" into a swimming pool, and measure the water level before and after. Flood control material it ain't ... You don't want retaining walls to be able to pass water. Ever hear of "rising damp"? The entire concept is laughable.

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Re: Volume issue, amongst other things.

You're missing the point here. That brick isn't for your basement, it's for the streets / walkways outside to let water seep through underground before it gets to your basement, instead of flowing and accumulating (and eventually getting to your basement).

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Re: Volume issue, amongst other things.

The entire concept [of passing comment on something you haven't bothered reading up on] is laughable.

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Re: Volume issue, amongst other things.

"You're missing the point here."

I don't think so.

"That brick isn't for your basement, it's for the streets / walkways outside"

My barns & driveways are "floored" with DG[1] crossed with about 8% Portland Cement. It allows rain and horse-piss to pass through, into my drainage system. My Grandfather used the same mix in the 1920s. It's not exactly rocket science.

"to let water seep through underground before it gets to your basement"

Where, exactly, does the water go in your scenario? Water flows downhill, into basements ... If you don't have a catchment basin, and a channel to move it through, you will get flooded.

"instead of flowing and accumulating (and eventually getting to your basement).

Uh ... if it's not being re-directed, it's accumulating.

[1] decomposed granite ...

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Re: Volume issue, amongst other things.

I'm guessing that by rain and horse piss you don't live in the middle of a built up area on the scale of Beijing?

Is decomposed granite and cement a suitable road building material capable of handling heavy and constant traffic, and while you can vouch for its equine urine dispersal in a country enviroment how is it at coping with rainfall in an urban enviroment where roads also have to cope with runoff from houses, tower blocks, concreted gardens, carparks etc.?

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Anonymous Coward

@Jake, Learn to read the article before posting comments

Firstly, the bricks don't absorb water, they simply allow it to pass through

Secondly, the bricks aren't used for constructing buildings but for covering areas which would have been covered by tarmac or concrete.

Thirdly, only the worlds shittest basement gets flooded from ground water. Basements are typically flooded by water entering the building at the ground floor level and then flowing down the steps

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Rain + city = problem

Talking to a friend who works for town planning the other day; she pointed out a extremely thing which I had never thought about before: paved surfaces do not absorb water, and that water has to *go* somewhere. Which means it needs to be managed.

They just dug a huge hole in a nearby park for precisely this purpose. A huge rainwater tank was installed in the hole and then it was turfed over. This is for buffering outflow from the nearby rainwater collection systems, because the various mechanisms for getting *rid* of the water --- piping it into rivers, soakaways etc --- couldn't do so quickly enough to manage heavy rainfall.

These bricks would allow water to permeate through paved surfaces and directly into the ground below. i.e. you're turning an entire road into a soakaway. This means you'll get far less runoff, which means far less water to manage, which also means fewer flash floods as the rainwater catchment systems overflow.

An excellent idea, if they can make it work.

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Re: Rain + city = problem

As mentioned by others, this has been around for a while in the form of permeable concrete, but it didn't work well in freeze/thaw cycles. If they've licked that in these bricks its nice, but they really need to lick it in concrete to be generally applicable outside of China and other low wage places.

Building your roads, sidewalks and parking lots out of bricks is quite expensive due to the labor cost. Many recently built "brick" surfaces (at least in the US) are concrete covered by a layer of sand with bricks on top.

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Re: Rain + city = problem

Tokyo has this same concept but on an enormous scale

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1VIepfMLbA

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Boffin

Re: Rain + city = problem

Yup, cities cause their own flash floods. In nature, rain hits soil and soaks in, moving as groundwater at speeds of the order of linguni/day (or hits tree leaves/vegetation and evaporates, or drips down to the ground sometime later, thus being slowed further before it reaches a water course). In cities, it flows into storm sewers and is piped out at metres a second, usually into a river, causing a very rapid and very sharp peak in river levels shortly after the rain starts falling.

Rather than having to build huge storm sewer networks, many areas just require that new houses are now built with soakaways buried in the garden for draining roof run-off, rather than draining into a municipal storm drain. Similarly, car parks are increasingly built with buffering tanks or large soakaways fed by the drains from the car park, so water soaks away locally instead of into a sewer where it then needs to be taken somewhere and got rid of.

In some areas planning regs - whilst encouraging development of off-road parking to reduce street congestion (such as turning a front garden into a parking space), mandate that such conversions use gravel, not an impermeable surface. Again, preventing that run-off becoming a burden on the drainage network.

Water management is a massive part of any modern building or civil engineering project, especially if you're paving a large impermeable area (like a car park). Consider a small one acre car park. Half an inch of rain (0.0127m), over an acre (~63mx63m) is more than 50 tonnes of water (~0.02 Olympic swimming pools). Most retail parks are much larger than that, and in the UK, we get a lot more rain. Tis a lot of water to get rid of.

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A water-permeable brick?

Well unless it's glazed or otherwise waterproofed, then that's every single brick in the history of fucking mankind. Please tell me these guys aren't going for a patent. Because there is prior art.

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Motorway surface

ISTR many years ago a section of the M25 (or was it the M4?) had a test section with a sound and water absorbing surface. I happened to be darn saarf and drove over that section. The sound absorption was impressive. Later that week, I happened to be going that way again when it was raining. The difference in the amount of spray generated by the vehicles in front of me was equally impressive.

This would have been 15-20 years ago. There does seem to be stretches of motorway now coated with this, or something similar (cheaper?) but it doesn't seem to have such impressive effects as that test strip I remember.

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