When you live in a country as seismically active as Japan, thinking about earthquakes (and tsumanis) probably occupies a good deal of your time. Inventor Shoichi Sakamoto took it a step further. He decided to do something about it and invented a technology, remarkably simple in concept, to protect homes from the devastating shaking – an airlift system capable of automatically raising and isolating the whole house until the temblor stops.
Already deployed in nearly 90 sites across Japan, the system functions in a straightforward manner: the house is separated from its foundation by an expandable, sliding air chamber. The instant a quake is detected (within .5 – 1 second), air from a storage tank fills the chamber and lifts the entire structure up to 1.18 inch (3 cm) and keeps it there until a sensor detects the shaking has stopped. Emergency batteries are provided to ensure the system stays functional in the likely event of power-loss.
Air Danshin claims that its system (see one of Sakamoto’s patent applications here) is about a third the cost of other seismic isolation systems. Apparently it’s also designed larger versions suitable for facilities such as factories and laboratories. Unfortunately, there was no mention of plans to protect nuclear power plants, but there’s always hope.