Firefighters everyday face down danger when it comes to blazes, some of which could have been prevented if the cause of the fire would have been known ahead of time. Detection devices that could monitor toxic chemicals and sudden fire could be game-changers in the work to make situations safer for everyone. This is why researchers at the University of Central Florida, through grant funding received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is trying to develop the technology needed for such life-saving devices.
A federal grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help the University of Central Florida researchers to come up with a groundbreaking sensor technology that could help with the detection of dangerous chemicals and hazardous fires by firefighters and others completely remotely.
This is the first time that any team at the University of Central Florida has received a fire and safety grant from FEMA.
According to Kausik Mukhopadhyay, a senior researcher at UCF’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, the goal is to develop portable detection systems that can both analyze toxic fumes quickly but also be cost-effective for those who would use such devices, he will also be the lead researcher and investigator on this project.
Mukhopadhyay had this to say about the critical need for such devices: “There is an urgent need for cost-effective, portable detection systems that can quickly and quantitatively analyze toxic and dangerous gases mixed with unwanted aerosols, such as smoke soot, dust, mist, fog, and fumes”
The actual device detection capability will work by using terahertz waves to detect fire and toxic chemicals “whose unique molecular signatures can be determined based on how the waves interact with them.”
“Precise sensing and selective detection of hazardous, toxic, or flammable gas in the smoke is important to avoid the secondary disaster in the fire accidents for the victims and firefighters,
The current sensors that exist, are too bulky.
Mukhopadhyay further went on to explain the urgency of detection as well as the reality surrounding fires, including the aftereffects:
Over 3 million acres have burned every year since 1999, and the acreage burned each year is increasing from more than 60,000 wildfires occurring in the United States each year,” Mukhopadhyay says.
“While the victims and responders tend to focus on the immediate effects of a fire, the ripple effects that flow from these events, ranging from the enormous respiratory and cardiac effects from the plumes of smoke to the aftermath of the toxic chemicals, create enormous burdens for firefighters and first responder.”
The focus on developing such early-detection devices actually stems from a UCF’s overall focus on ensuring that first responders can respond to emergencies effectively. Recently the University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering received a grant from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a sensor that would be able to detect deadly airborne opioids, like fentanyl and carfentanil, as well as any toxins released from fires or explosions. This sensor is being developed by associate professor, Subith Vasu, and could save countless lives.