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Massive Acrylic Aquarium Bursts in Berlin Hotel

Only two people were injured as 264,000 gallons of water, some 1,500 exotic fish, and debris gushed through the hotel and into the street.

A 46-foot-high cyclindrical aquarium — the stunning centerpiece of the Radisson hotel in Berlin, Germany — suddenly burst early Friday morning, spilling more than 264,000 gallons of water and around 1,500 exotic fish and debris onto a busy thoroughfare, reports Reuters. The cause of the rupture of what is described as the world’s largest free-standing cylindrical aquarium in the world is unknown at this time.

The acrylic-based structure was engineered by Reynolds Polymer Technology Inc., which has designed and built numerous attractions of this kind around the world. PlasticsToday has reported on a see-through swimming pool spanning two rooftops in London more than 100 feet in the air that debuted in 2021 along with the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at Singapore’s main airport. Reynolds Polymer Technology has a long history of creating epic acrylic constructions and overcoming seemingly impossible feats of engineering. It has an unimpeachable reputation and there is no indication at this time that the engineering or construction of the AquaDom had any bearing on the rupture.

It should be noted, however, that acrylic-based aquariums have failed in the past in Shanghai, Walt Disney World in Florida, and Dubai, as detailed in a PlasticsToday article, "When Acrylic Aquariums Fail," authored by Paul J. Gramann, PhD, President of the Madison Group, a consultancy serving the plastics industry. In the article he cites the following common reasons why acrylic aquariums may fail:

  • Poor bonding of acrylic panels creating a weak seam;
  • improper installation;
  • poor manufacturing of the acrylic panels, resulting in inferior strength and stiffness;
  • residual stress molded or formed into the panel during manufacturing; and
  • introduction of large gouges or notches that can significantly increase stress in the panel.

Gramann also notes that these issues typically do not reveal themselves until months or years after installation. When the actual failure event occurs, “it is quick and catastrophic,” he writes.

While quick, the bursting of the AquaDom in Berlin fortunately was not as catastrophic as it could have been. The incident occurred at 5:45 AM local time and two people were reported to be injured by glass splinters. Had it happened even one hour later, “then we would have had terrible human loss to report,” said Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey, according to Reuters. The hotel is located on a busy street in the center of Berlin.

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