Monday, April 29, 2013

New Composite Can Strengthen Seawalls

Our seawalls are not in good shape.

This normally wouldn't be the most newsworthy bombshell if the US hasn't had five straight years of climate shift, including rising sea levels affecting previously unaffected regions (see: "Sandy, Hurricane").

Your average seawall is mostly concrete, vulnerable
to erosion and weathering.
So, in considering the changing weather-scape, and just how ill-prepared the highly populous areas of this country are to even understand just how vulnerable they are right now, yyyeah our seawalls are not good.  Outdated and more importantly, too expensive to make with materials that are too porous to be considered adequate for inevitable flooding.

Back in the 20th century, we used concrete and wood.  Nowadays we use polyester resins, glass-based that need a gel coating to block water effectively.  Even then, the average life for polyester seawalls is a mere 25 years.  More recently, manufacturers have been turning to polyurethene resins, a much stronger ingredient for composite sheet piles, but they've so far been too expensive to use on a large scale.

This pure polyurethane resin seawall is laced with Bayer's
new PURloc composite. 
Enter Bayer MaterialScience, who, in collaboration with Gulf Synthetics, crafted PURloc; a synthetic resin made with Bayer's polyurethane system designed to be the strongest seawall material yet.  Using a process called pultrusion, Bayer experts were able to inject pure polyurethane resin into every dense layer of the sheet pile.  The result is seawall material stronger and more elastic than Gulf's newest brand, as well as cheaper because of the pultrusion process.

Gulf Synthetics is currently putting the PURloc composite sheet piles to work in areas of New York and the Cayman Islands.  If it proves its worth, this could be an exciting new development, as well as an opportunity to re-manufacture a much-needed product for the immediate future.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

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