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Homeland Security tests subway tunnel plug at WVU

Vicki Smith, Associated Press

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- Researchers at West Virginia University are working with a Delaware company and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on an inflatable plug that could protect subway and vehicle tunnels from flooding.

Engineers with ILC Dover are gathering results Thursday from the latest tests of the Resilient Tunnel Plug. They inflated the oblong balloon made of Space Age materials in a scale-model section of subway tunnel at a WVU airplane hangar.

Packed into the wall like an air bag, the plug flops out and inflates in about two minutes.

ILC engineer Jeff Roushey says that when fully inflated, the woven bands of Vectran are virtually impenetrable.

Homeland Security spokesman John Verrico says the technology is designed with transportation tunnels in mind but could also be used to block chemicals and gases.