By creating a simulator that closely mimicked a real-life scenario, as well as using human participants, the researchers provided the most comprehensive insight into the processes that occur within disaster sites, raising the prospect of more accurate portable detection systems in the future.
The simulator itself was composed of three separate sections: the environmental section, which maintained the air flow, humidity and temperature; the void section, in which the participant was laid down; and the collapsed-building section, which was composed of densely packed building materials.
The researchers emphasised that the most important element of the study was the provision of safe and ethical experimental conditions for both the volunteers and research staff.
Co-author of the study, Professor Paul Thomas of Loughborough University, said, "This is the first scientific study on sensing systems that could detect trapped people. The development of a portable detection device based on metabolites of breath, sweat and skin could hold several advantages over current techniques.
"A device could be used in the field without laboratory support. It could monitor signs of life for prolonged periods and be deployed in large numbers, as opposed to a handful of dogs working, at risk to themselves and their handlers, for 20 minutes before needing extensive rest."
An Institute of Physics spokesperson said, "As the first study of its kind, this preliminary work can be built upon to help prepare for future disasters such as those tragedies we've seen recently in Japan and New Zealand."
"The trapped human experiment" was performed under the EC FP7 project "Second Generation Locator for Urban Search and Rescue" Operations.
|Contact: Michael Bishop|
Institute of Physics