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Boffins splash fluids on special soggy biscuits in anti-flood demo

China's 'Silicon Valley' builds bricks that let water IN

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Chinese boffins from Beijing’s "Silicon Valley" are showing off innovative anti-flood technology – bricks that actually let the water in.

Rechsand Science and Technology Group demoed the soggy bricks at its base in Zhongguancun Science Park – home to big-name domestic tech firms Lenovo, Sina and Baidu as well as international giants Google, Microsoft, Sony, and others.

In a carefully stage-managed press event engineered to show off the best of Chinese scientific ingenuity ahead of the 18th Communist Party Congress, Rechsand chairman Qin Shengyi explained that the bricks use a special material to make the desert sand inside the blocks permeable to water. Pavements and roads built with the bricks could therefore allow the water to seep away underground rather than build up and flood homes and offices, for instance.

Such drastic measures are needed in many Chinese cities where flooding is not uncommon during heavy downpours due to inefficient drainage systems. This was highlighted catastrophically in July when heavy flooding in Beijing led to the deaths of more than 70 locals.

"None of the places using my permeable bricks were paralysed by the heavy rain in July because the rainwater could penetrate the bricks immediately and drained down to the underground rainfall-gathering system," said Qin, according to China Daily.

The saturated bricks can also help keep city centre temperatures down during the summer by allowing water to evaporate – thus limiting what’s known as the “heat island” effect. There’s also a green angle to this clunky innovation: the same water retention technology is apparently being used to sustain plant life in desert regions.

Rechsand has planted 667 hectares of trees and grass in regions including Gansu province (home to various bits of desert) and Inner Mongolia, starting two years ago, and at least 90 per cent managed to survive, Qin told reporters.

The soggy brick project is being touted as yet another success story for Zhongguancun and China. Companies based in the science park apparently recorded 1.96tr yuan ($313.6bn) in sales last year, a 23 percent year-on-year increase. ®

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