An Anderson man who set out to make buildings stronger in order to stand up to an explosion has become the co-inventor of what Popular Science magazine is calling the “world’s toughest wallpaper.” Gordon Brown prefers to describe it as the “world’s strongest duct tape.” Whatever it’s called , the product won the Popular Science magazine’s grand prize award in the “Best of what’s New” security category. Brown says the material is being used now on a limited basis by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Middle East. Brown says the materials main feature is its flexibility.
“This material adheres excellently so that bricks don’t fall down, but it gives. When it gives or moves, it absorbs energy and that is how you manage the potential catastrophic affects of a blast.”
A 26 year Naval Reserve veteran, Brown is a consultant with Berry Plastics. He says he hopes to see commercial use of the product in the very near future.
Brown says the material’s strength is derived from the combining of Kevlar-like material sandwiched by polymer wrap. Brown says the material is cut and layered on to a wall like wallpaper. “You’ve got an adhesive, two films of a polymer and in between you have a fabric consisting of aramid fibers. If you look at it you can see the fibers cross each other at a 45 degree angle.”
Popular Science magazine calls the material one of the 100best innovations of the year.
In describing how the material adheres to a surface, Brown says it acts similar to a Chinese finger puzzle. “How do you get your fingers out? You push in the other direction and when you do that that cylinder you put your fingers in opens up and if you pull your fingers out real slowly, it won’t tightened up on you. Well, The fibers in the “ex-flex” material move similar to that which gives it its flexibility.”
Brown says many have seen the web video that shows the wallpaper layered over concrete blocks standing up against a wrecking ball. Brown also points to a test conducted by the International Storm Shelter Association at Texas Tech University. Brown says in the test a 15 pound 15 foot two by four beam was fired at 100 miles per hour at a wall covered with the material.
“The test at Texas Tech confirmed that when this two by four went through the cinder block wall, it impacted the ex-flex material. The beam pealed about a 30 inch in diameter circle into the wall, but the material absorbed the energy and acted like t trampoline and threw the two by four beam back at the launching machine.” Brown says this energy absorption indicates that the material can be used to protect structure where catastrophic weather events are frequent. “Hurricane and tornado protection application is one important use we are going to pursue.”
Brown says he also envisions the material being used as a stop gap measure in case of auto accidents involving impact with concrete barriers. “Cars and trucks run into these barriers. If you drive down the interstates you can see the black tire marks all over these walls. Some of these impacts are such that they physically will break the wall. The walls are very strong but once the concrete cracks, this ex-flex material can be used as a temporary patch until construction crews can get out there and chip away the old concrete and effect permanent repairs to the damaged wall.”