Firefighters Seeing through Flames and Saving Lives

By: | April 7th, 2013

New infrared holography technology could enable firemen to see through flames and smoke, according to Italian researchers at CNR (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche), the National Research Council.

The infrared laser can beam through smoke and detect objects in the room like furniture or, most importantly, people. The laser can ‘bounce’ off the object back to the source of the laser on the fire fighter, creating a 3D image of the room for them. The technology will allow fire fighters to see up to five people in a room at time, in holograph form, and could ultimately save many lives.

The holograph image of live moving people is captured by the infrared laser which is used is known as an infrared bolometer in a digital camera. The camera does not have a traditional lens.

Current technology used by fire fighters is infrared (IR) monitors, which use lenses and can just about see through smoke but not flame and can eventually become blinded when the smoke reaches certain levels of intensity.

One of the researchers involved in the study, Pietro Ferraro, explained: “IR cameras cannot ‘see’ objects or humans behind flames because of the need for a zoom lens that concentrates the rays on the sensor to form the image.”

Crucially, the holography technology detects movement first and foremost so fire fighters will be able to find living people that are at risk of the fire and rescue them. “Perhaps most importantly, we demonstrated for the first time that a holographic recording of a live person can be achieved even while the body is moving,” added Ferraro.

Read more about the study here.

Jonathan Keane

Irish journalist writing on business, tech and engineering.


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