Developing fireproof sensor to keep high-risk workers safe

Home Developing fireproof sensor to keep high-risk workers safe

“If somebody is unconscious and you are unable to find them, this could be very useful. The nice thing is that because it is self-powered, you don’t have to do anything. It scavenges power from the environment.”

Ravi Selvaganapathy, McMaster University Mechanical Engineering Professor

Developing fireproof sensor to keep high-risk workers safe

McMaster University researchers, working with partners at other universities, have created a motion-powered, fireproof sensor that can track the movements of firefighters, steelworkers, miners and others who work in high-risk environments where they cannot always be seen.

The low-cost sensor is about the size of a button-cell watch battery and can easily be incorporated into the sole of a boot or under the arm of a jacket – wherever motion creates a pattern of constant contact and release to generate the power the sensor needs to operate.

The sensor uses friction-generated charging, and can track the movement and location of a person in a burning building, a mineshaft or other hazardous environment, alerting someone outside if the movement ceases.

The researchers explain that previously developed self-powered sensors have allowed similar tracking, but their materials break down at high temperatures, rendering them useless. A self-powered sensor is necessary in extreme heat because most batteries also break down in high temperatures. The researchers have successfully tested the new technology at temperatures up to 300C – the temperature where most types of wood start to burn – without any loss of function.

For more information, visit McMaster University’s Brighter World.