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FEMA awards $1 Million to WPI to develop groundbreaking toxic gas sensors for firefighters
Date:9/19/2012

Worcester, Mass. Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have received a $1 million award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop a sensor that could significantly reduce and potentially eliminate line of duty injuries and deaths of firefighters caused by the inadvertent inhalation of hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide, both colorless and odorless toxic gases.

Faculty members in WPI's Fire Protection Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments will collaborate on the research, which will include the development and testingin the laboratory and in the fieldof a wearable, pocket-sized device that will warn firefighters when toxic gases are present.

While toxic gas sensors exist, none can function reliably in extreme conditions such as intense heat and humidity typically encountered on the fire ground. The sensor will protect firefighters continuously from inside a building near the source of a fire as well as outside of the burning structure, where toxic gasescalled invisible killers are often present, but where portable breathing devices are typically not worn.

"This grant will have a significant impact because it will affect every firefighter in the long term," said David Cyganski, professor of electrical and computer engineering, who is the principal investigator for the project. "We believe that this sensor will lengthen the lives of firefighters by greatly reducing exposure to these lethal gases and thus circumventing their long-term degenerative effects."

Cyganski said that "the role of hydrogen cyanide as an important component of the dangers associated with the fire ground has only recently begun to receive increased attention." In the spring of 2006, he noted, 27 members of the Providence, R.I., Fire Department were tested for cyanide poisoning in the aftermath of three separate fires. Eight members of the department were found to have significantly elevated l
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Contact: Andrew Baron
ajbaron@wpi.edu
508-831-5916
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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