Working in collaboration with colleague Dr. Narjabadifam in Iran, Cal Poly Mechanical Engineering Professor Dr. Mohammad Noori has recently obtained a patent for inventing a novel earthquake protection system.
Noori has been involved in the development of seismic isolation systems since the mid-1980s. Research and development into the subject have produced several “smart” materials with unique properties including the basis behind Noori’s patent: an alloy that is able to return to its original shape after being deformed. The alloy has the ability to absorb energy that prevents or reduces the destructive power of an earthquake, while also being able to return to its beginning shape while withstanding millions of cycles of deformation without wearing down. This became the basis for Noori and his colleagues’ invention, an isolation system with several reconfigurable components made of these smart materials.
The different configurations that the alloy can be used in provide the ability to absorb energy in several ways, to protect not only the building, but also its contents. In buildings such as hospitals or communications centers, current earthquake protection systems are unable to protect important devices from vertical movement endured during earthquakes, whereas the system developed by Noori and his colleague is able to sustain loads in all directions and protect vital equipment from getting damaged or destroyed.
The system Noori developed has many commercial applications including use on hospital equipment and other fragile pieces of technology, but its first foray into the market will be as earthquake protection for buildings. Noori and his team have already been working on the commercialization of this with California-based company, the Contour Crafting Corporation.
Contour Crafting has a unique premise: they 3D print buildings. While there are many advantages to 3D printing concrete buildings such as quick and cheap construction, their seismic protection is lacking. This is where Noori comes in, as a partnership with Contour Crafting will be testing out the technology in their building construction.
Partnering with Contour Crafting enabled Noori to apply to receive National Science Foundation funds and write a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) proposal to start implementing technology. Working in conjunction with Cal Poly’s Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education (R-EDGE) office was also a huge help to Noori, bridging the gap between the innovation and the business aspects of new technical commercialization.
“We really enjoyed working with Jim Dunning and his team. When we approached them, this technology was in a very primitive stage, and we went back and forth to see what needs to be done to achieve this patent. They provided all kinds of infrastructure, and without their support, we would not have been able to get this patent through as easily,” Noori said.