Scientists Developed Lightweight Sensor to Detect Survivors in Disaster Zones


Researchers from Austria, Switzerland, and Cyprus developed an inexpensive sensor, which can be used to find people trapped in natural disaster

Researchers are engaged in developing new technologies, which can help rescue teams to look for survivors in the aftermath of disasters, such as earthquakes or bombings. Novel sensor developed by the team is lightweight and portable. It can be carried by rescue team or can be mounted on to a drone. It could help discover survivors in the all-important period of time immediately following an incident, which can save their life in critical situations. A paper describing the project, ‘Sniffing Entrapped Humans with Sensor Arrays,’ was published in the American Chemical Society journal Analytical Chemistry in April 2018.

The novel diminutive device consists of five sensors. Two of these sensors are commercially available sensors for detecting humidity and carbon dioxide. Moreover, there are three tailor-made sensors, which have ability to detect the specific breath and skin-emitted chemicals acetone, ammonia, and isoprene at micro concentrations. This reduces the need of the current bulky, expensive sensors used for this task, which have chances of missing signals if they are not present at high concentrations.

“In the aftermath of an earthquake, many victims are entrapped under collapsed structures and need rapid help, because survival rates drop dramatically within the first hours,” said Sotiris Pratsinis, Professor of Process Engineering at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. “Currently indispensable for urban search and rescue are dogs with their superior ability to sniff entrapped humans from their scent. However, their availability and operational time are limited and they are rather stress-sensitive. Here, we built a palm-sized and inexpensive sensor array that can detect humans by sniffing their chemical signature as well.”