January 29, 2011

Scientists Develop Electronic “˜Noses’ For Search And Rescue Missions

Scientists have developed electronic "noses" in order to help assist in search and rescue.

Professor Paul Thomas is head of the research group at Loughborough University's Center for Analytical Science, which have designed the device to be placed in the environment of a collapsed building.

The device contains a sensitive microphone, an infra-red detector, and a sophisticated chemical "nose" in the form of an ion mobility spectrometer.

It contains various sensors that will collect and combine data, which rescues could then use to locate a trapped human.

The researchers wanted to characterize the volatile organic compounds (VOC) signature given off by a trapped human being.  These are generated by humans internal metabolic processes, as well as the activities of skin-colonizing bacteria.

The researchers created a "trapped human simulator," in the form of a climate controlled sealed box in which volunteers were "entrapped" for up to six hours.

The team connected a large glass column packed with contraction materials to the simulator, designed to represent the layers created when a building collapses.

Air from inside the chamber where the volunteers laid were passed through the column, and then analyzed by the researchers.

The researchers needed to determine how a collapsed building environment would affect the VOC profile of the "trapped" human.

The team also wanted to monitor time-dependent variation in the VOC, which include metabolic changes resulting from increasing hunger and thirst along with psychological stress.

Loughborough's team is currently analyzing all the chemical data collected and could publish their results early this summer.


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