This Inflatable Tunnel Plug Stops Floods, Smoke And Gas

NYC's First Inflatable Tunnel Plug Will Stop Floods, Smoke, and Gas

After Hurricane Sandy decimated the New York City subway system last year, officials pledged to install new devices to help halt the rising tides — including flood gates and, more intriguingly, a device called a "tunnel plug".

During a "Sandy Resilience Tour" last week, the MTA unveiled a working prototype of the plug, which was installed earlier this year for testing. The strong inflatable tube deploys from a folded-up wall panel to fill every nook and cranny of the tunnel where it's installed — halting not only flood waters, but also smoke from fires, gas attacks and other perils.

NYC's First Inflatable Tunnel Plug Will Stop Floods, Smoke, and Gas

The plug was designed by a company called ILC Dover, which contracts for the DoD and NASA (their logo is a tiny astronaut). In fact, the super-tough material they use to build the plugs is similar to the stuff they use to make space suits. Originally developed as part of a project for US Homeland Security, these plugs are designed to withstand 12,000kg per square metre using a super-strong pressurised plug with an internal capacity of roughly 130,000 litres, according to a PhysOrg report.

Though it's unclear whether the MTA plans to deploy the plugs in working subway stations, it seems likely that we're about to see more of them soon — the NY Daily News reports that ILC Dover is testing a similar tensile "curtain" at the 207 Street subway station in the Bronx. And they won't just be used in subway stations: similar deployments could stop passage through stairwells, hallways and other spaces.

Take a leisurely jaunt through the comments section on any story about the plugs, and you'll see a single resounding comment: that thing looks like a giant tampon. Lazy jokes aside, there's actually a connection: ILC Dover was originally part of a conglomerate International Latex Corporation — which eventually became Playtex. American engineering at work! [MTA on Flickr]

NYC's First Inflatable Tunnel Plug Will Stop Floods, Smoke, and Gas

Pictures: MTAPhotos/Flickr, Governor Andrew Cuomo/Flickr

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