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Successful experimental test of new inflatable breakwater model

Published: 07/03/2021

In recent years CIMNE has developed a new concept of inflatable breakwater. The inflatable breakwater is formed by a collection of polymer tubes anchored to the sea bottom. Once the tubes are filled with water, they create a breakwater structure that emerges over the water surface and can mitigate the effect of incident waves.

The inflatable breakwater represents a new paradigm for protecting of the shoreline, managing sediment transport and prevent the erosion of sandy beaches. This is a longstanding problem of maritime engineering which increasingly requires a satisfactory solution.

Performance of inflatable breakwater model under impact of water waves

The main advantage of the new inflatable breakwater is that it can be deployed during storms only and kept deflated in periods of calmed sea. In this manner it can protect the sea shore during rough weather conditions, while minimizing its effect on the environmental conditions and the bio-diversity of the area during most of the year.

Supervision of the manufacturing of the inflatable breakwater model at Buildair. The left picture shows (from left to right) Dr. Omar Salomon (PSTECH) and Dr. Pere-Andreu Ubach (CIMNE) who participated in the design of the model.

A 1:12 scale model of the inflatable breakwater has been designed by CIMNE with the collaboration of the CIMNE spin-off company PSTECH. The model has been manufactured by the CIMNE spin-off company Buildair. The inflatable breakwater model is formed by seven polymer tubes of varying diameters to provide shape and stiffness. The tubes are anchored to a fixed base representing the sea bottom.  

Inflatable breakwater model placed at LIM wave channel

From left to right: Pere Andreu Ubach (CIMNE), Ferran Falcó (General Secretary of Dpt. Territory and Sustainability, Government of Catalonia), Eugenio Oñate (Director of CIMNE), Agustín Sánchez-Arcilla (Director of LIM/UPC), Fernando Hermosilla (CIMNE) and Ignacio Valero (CIMNE)

The scale model of the inflatable breakwater has been successfully tested at the 100m long wave channel of the Laboratory of Maritime Engineering (LIM) of the School of Civil Engineering at the Technical University of Catalonia (UPC). The test results have validated the efficiency of the inflatable breakwater concept for mitigating sea waves in storms.

The design and manufacturing of the inflatable breakwater model, as well as the experimental test is part of the innovation project entitled "Validation of inflatable breakwaters design for the intelligent protection of sandy beaches against erosion". The project has been funded by the European Regional Fund Programme (FEDER- Catalunya 2014-2020).

Experimental tests has been carried out on March 5th 2021 on the occasion of the visit of Mr. Ferran Falcó, Secretary of the Department of Territory and Sustainability of the Government of Catalonia, who was accompanied by Prof. Agustín Sánchez-Arcilla (Director of LIM), Prof. Eugenio Oñate (Director of CIMNE) and several CIMNE researchers.