Looking is in the past, experiencing is the future: Visitors at aquariums and zoos want to observe animals up close and personal. Transparent PLEXIGLAS® panels make this possible.
A school of fish just inches away. Taking a walk underwater. A small ecosystem in the middle of a hotel. With modern large aquariums this has become a common sight. Zoos, shopping malls, hotels and amusement parks all want to give their visitors a very special experience. For these spectacular projects, the materials have to fulfill very specific requirements. For example, the panels have to allow for large formats, be formable and still offer a natural view of the animals.
Enter the underwater world: A tour of the Den Blå Planet in Copenhagen
Just like at the Den Blå Planet in Copenhagen. In Northern Europe’s largest aquarium, visitors can take a tour of underwater regions all around the world. Several thousand animals, including 1000 Piranhas, live there in about 50 aquariums. Separated from the animals by only a 125 millimeter thick PLEXIGLAS® panel, visitors can watch them devour their food with their razor-sharp teeth. “At that sight, you quickly forget that you are standing in front of an aquarium,” says Zac Gill, business development manager at Advanced Aquarium Technologies (AAT),“ and that is what makes the quality of a good aquarium; that its content is displayed vividly.”
Experts on the construction of large aquariums
AAT has been designing and constructing impressive aquariums around the world for over 20 years, and each one of them has its very own requirements. “The design is primarily determined by the spatial conditions, the number of visitors expected and the size of the investment,” says Gill. For this reason, AAT does not produce standard aquariums, each one of their aquariums is unique.
The Cube Oceanarium is located in the heart of Chengdu’s latest shopping precinct – Seaside City. AAT supplied and installed a total of 105 PLEXIGLAS® acrylic panels. The 180° tunnel in the flooded Amazon tank provides visitors with a wonderfully immersive experience.
The Oman Aquarium project will be opening in 2017. AAT has been contracted to supply and install 92 PLEXIGLAS® acrylic panels, bringing the total amount of acrylic in the aquarium to 81 tons. The facility will feature many fascinating exhibits including a walk-through tunnel.
Den Blå Planet in Copenhagen is Northern Europe’s largest aquarium and is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Denmark. AAT supplied 44 tons of PLEXIGLAS® acrylic and installed 69 panels, including the Piranha exhibit. This panel measures 7.25 m wide by 2.46 m high and is 125 mm thick.
The Cube Oceanarium in Chengdu hosts over 10,000 different species of marine life including a captivating colony of penguins. AAT supplied and installed the PLEXIGLAS® acrylic panels for the large penguin exhibit. The total amount of acrylic delivered by AAT for this aquarium project was an enormous 51 tons.
The Lighthouse Exhibit within the Cube Oceanarium in Chengdu is interactive and offers spectacular underwater views through an aquarium window. The curved PLEXIGLAS® acrylic viewing panel allows visitors to view the exhibit from various angles and also features two acrylic domes for up close viewing. The acrylic domes and multiple curved panels were produced by AAT using a technique called Thermoforming.
However, materials that fulfill the high-quality standards at AAT are a prerequisite for all projects. “In the end, the most important part concerning aquarium panels is that they are invisible,” explains Wolfgang Stuber, specialist for specialty glazings at PLEXIGLAS®. The brand acrylic is absolutely colorless and does not distort the image. “This allows you to see animals underwater as they really are, in the right colors and proportions, without cloudiness,” explains Stuber. At the same time, the panels have to withstand enormous water pressure and are not allowed to bend, let alone break. “PLEXIGLAS® can be produced with a thickness of up to 180 millimeters, which means the pressure of the water is no problem,” says Stuber.
Larger formats for larger aquariums
Evolution in Acrylics is our Passion
This topic is a fine example of what “Evolution in acrylics is our passion” – the vision of Röhm’s Acrylic Products business unit – expresses, and what Röhm means by smart concepts in the chemical business.
This acrylic panel was created for a swimming pool overlooking the Brisbane River in Queensland, Australia. The u-shape was accomplished by joining three PLEXIGLAS® acrylic sheets and bonding two edges to achieve maximum strength.
The costs for such spectacular aquariums can quickly amount to sums of over tens of millions. Therefore, longevity plays an important role when selecting suitable materials. “Because aquariums deal with millions of – typically salty – water you really need to consider the life of the materials used,” explains Gill. “We have seen aquariums built with cast iron valves in salt water systems and these rust out in one year and all parts need replacing. Thus, high quality materials are very important for the ongoing operating costs and profitability of aquariums.”
Original PLEXIGLAS® not only stays transparent for several decades, it is also insusceptible to salt water, as Gill confirms from his work experience: “We undertook a refurbishment on an aquarium in New Zealand which was the first acrylic tunnel to be installed 31 years ago, and for this they used PLEXIGLAS®. The tank was drained completely and we removed the tunnel panels and after a quick resize and a polish they looked as good as the day they went in.”