Even though they are miles from the epicenter of an earthquake, buildings can collapse due to how an earthquake’s energy makes the ground shake and rattle.

Now, a team of engineers led by Guoliang Huang, a James C.Dowell Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of Missouri College of Engineering, has designed a flexible material that can help buildings withstand multiple waves of energy traveling through a solid material, including the simultaneous forward and backward and side-to-side motions found in earthquakes.

“Our elastic material can stretch and form to a particular surface, similarly to a wrap on a vehicle,” Huang said. “It can be applied to the surface of an existing building to allow it to flex in an earthquake. What is unique about the structured lattice-type material is that it protects against both types of energy waves — longitudinal and sheer — that can travel through the ground.