Accelerate - September 2013

Smartly surfing seismic waves

Victoria University, working alongside engineering partners Dunning Thornton, MJH Engineering and Robinson Seismic, has developed a breakthrough new platform to protect critical assets during an earthquake.

Victoria University, working alongside engineering partners Dunning Thornton, MJH Engineering and Robinson Seismic, has developed a breakthrough new platform to protect critical assets during an earthquake.

The QuakeSurfer, a standalone suspension system, can protect valuable equipment such as generators, data centres and sensitive equipment from up to 90% of the forces generated by earthquakes.

What makes QuakeSurfer a world first is its ability to mitigate vertical acceleration, which in the case of Christchurch's February 2011 earthquake, was as significant as the horizontal acceleration.

“Before the Christchurch earthquakes, vertical movement was usually recorded at lower levels than horizontal movement but in Christchurch there was a ratio of one-to-one,” says Victoria University IT Services Director Stuart Haselden, one of the inventors of the technology.

“QuakeSurfer is an added form of insurance for industries or companies that need their infrastructure to be available after a big earthquake. There are a number of horizontal protection methods available, but nothing we know of that would be as effective as QuakeSurfer in protecting against vertical acceleration,” says Mr Haselden.

Mr Haselden and his colleagues came up with the idea when they were considering where to locate the University’s disaster recovery data centre.

They wanted to keep it in Wellington, rather than follow a common practice of locating secondary data centres in another city, but couldn’t find existing technology that would provide an adequate level of protection from seismic events.

The QuakeSurfer is now commercially available and Mr Haselden says that they have received interest from earthquake prone countries like Japan and the United States.

Updated: 7 September 2015