Whether they're floods, earthquakes or landslides, natural disasters have a nasty habit of cutting survivors off from aid by destroying bridges. While traditional portable bridges can already be set up in such situations, researchers from Hiroshima University recently demonstrated a new model that is said to be "the world’s fastest, largest, strongest, and lightest expanding temporary bridge."

Developed by a team led by Dr. Ichiro Ario, the Mobile Bridge Version 4.0 (MB4.0) was inspired by the Japanese folded-paper art of origami.

When not in use, the MB4.0 is contracted like an accordion and can be towed on a trailer. Once it gets to the site of a destroyed bridge, however, it employs a scissor-like action to fold out, its sections of decking sliding out end-to-end to provide a platform for vehicles.

From the time it arrives until the time that it can be used is about an hour, with no foundation construction or cranes being required – a fact that makes it more economical than some other options. In fact, the amount of time it takes to actually expand across the river is only about five minutes, and it can receive traffic as soon it's done so.

An MB4.0 prototype was demonstrated at a symposium of the Japan Society of Civil Engineers on June 23rd, where it was successfully set up and used by cars to cross the Hongo River in Fukuyama City.

Ario and his team are continuing to develop the technology, and have suggested that it could also be used to extend the lifespan of older bridges that are in need of structural support.

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