Nav: Home

An electronic rescue dog

May 16, 2018

Trained rescue dogs are still the best disaster workers - their sensitive noses help them to track down people buried by earthquakes or avalanches. Like all living creatures, however, dogs need to take breaks every now and again. They are also often not immediately available in disaster areas, and dog teams have to travel from further afield.

A new measuring device from researchers at ETH Zurich led by Sotiris Pratsinis, Professor of Process Engineering, however, is always ready for use. The scientists had previously developed small and extremely sensitive gas sensors for acetone, ammonia, and isoprene - all metabolic products that we emit in low concentrations via our breath or skin. The researchers have now combined these sensors in a device with two commercial sensors for CO2 and moisture.

Chemical "fingerprint"

As shown by laboratory tests in collaboration with Austrian and Cypriot scientists, this sensor combination can be quite useful when searching for entrapped people. The researchers used a test chamber at the University of Innsbruck's Institute for Breath Research in Dornbirn as an entrapment simulator. Volunteers each remained in this chamber for two hours.

"The combination of sensors for various chemical compounds is important, because the individual substances could come from sources other than humans. CO2, for example, could come from either a buried person or a fire source," explains Andreas Güntner, a postdoc in Pratsinis' group and lead author of the study, published in the journal Analytical Chemistry [http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.analchem.8b00237]. The combination of sensors provides the scientists with reliable indicators of the presence of people.

Suitable for inaccessible areas

The researchers also showed that there are differences between the compounds emitted via our breath and skin. "Acetone and isoprene are typical substances that we mostly breathe out. Ammonia, however, is usually emitted through the skin," explains ETH professor Pratsinis. In the experiments in the entrapment simulator, the participants wore a breathing mask. In the first part of the experiment, the exhaled air was channelled directly out of the chamber; in the second part, it remained inside. This allowed the scientists to create separate breath and skin emission profiles.

The ETH scientists' gas sensors are the size of a small computer chip. "They are about as sensitive as most ion mobility spectrometers, which cost thousands of Swiss francs and are the size of a suitcase," says Pratsinis. "Our easy-to-handle sensor combination is by far the smallest and cheapest device that is sufficiently sensitive to detect entrapped people. In a next step, we would like to test it during real conditions, to see whether it is suited for use in searches after earthquakes or avalanches."

While electronic devices are already in use during searches after earthquakes, these work with microphones and cameras. These only help to locate entrapped people who are capable of making themselves heard or are visible beneath ruins. The ETH scientists' idea is to complement these resources with the chemical sensors. They are currently looking for industry partners or investors to support the construction of a prototype. Drones and robots could also be equipped with the gas sensors, allowing difficult-to-reach or inaccessible areas to also be searched. Further potential applications could include detecting stowaways and exposing human trafficking.
-end-
Reference

Güntner AT, Pineau NJ, Mochalski P, Wiesenhofer H, Agapiou A, Mayhew CA, Pratsinis SE: Sniffing Entrapped Humans with Sensor Arrays. Analytical Chemistry, doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.8b00237 [http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.analchem.8b00237]

ETH Zurich

Related Earthquakes Articles:

Distant earthquakes can cause underwater landslides
New research finds large earthquakes can trigger underwater landslides thousands of miles away, weeks or months after the quake occurs.
New model could help predict major earthquakes
Nagoya University-led researchers characterized several earthquakes that struck South America's west coast over the last 100 years by using seismographic data, tsunami recordings, and models of the rapid plate movements associated with these natural disasters.
Forecasting large earthquakes along the Wasatch Front, Utah
There is a 43 percent probability that the Wasatch Front region in Utah will experience at least one magnitude 6.75 or greater earthquake, and a 57 percent probability of at least one magnitude 6.0 earthquake, in the next 50 years, say researchers speaking at the 2017 Seismological Society of America's (SSA) Annual Meeting.
Anticipating hazards from fracking-induced earthquakes in Canada and US
As hydraulic fracturing operations expand in Canada and in some parts of the United States, researchers at the 2017 Seismological Society of America's (SSA) Annual Meeting are taking a closer look at ways to minimize hazards from the earthquakes triggered by those operations.
Oklahoma is laboratory for research on human-induced earthquakes
Earthquakes such as the February 2016 magnitude 5.1 Fairview quake, November 2016's 5.0 Cushing quake, and the September 2016 5.8 Pawnee quake -- the state's largest in historic times -- have made Oklahoma a laboratory for studying human-induced seismicity, according to researchers gathering at the 2017 Seismological Society of America's (SSA) Annual meeting.
Prediction of large earthquakes probability improved
As part of the 'Research in Collaborative Mathematics' project run by the Obra Social 'la Caixa', researchers of the Mathematics Research Centre (CRM) and the UAB have developed a mathematical law to explain the size distribution of earthquakes, even in the cases of large-scale earthquakes such as those which occurred in Sumatra (2004) and in Japan (2011).
Manmade earthquakes in Oklahoma on the decline
Stanford scientists predict that over the next few years, the rate of induced earthquake in Oklahoma will decrease significantly, but the possibility for damaging earthquakes to occur will remain high.
Crowdsourced data can help researchers study earthquakes
A new study on how people feel the effects of earthquakes illustrates the value that members of the public can add to the scientific research process.
Humans have been causing earthquakes in Texas since the 1920s
Earthquakes triggered by human activity have been happening in Texas since at least 1925, and they have been widespread throughout the state ever since, according to a new historical review of the evidence published online May 18 in Seismological Research Letters.
Bubble volcano: Shaking, popping by earthquakes may cause eruptions
A new study on the connection between earthquakes and volcanoes took its inspiration from old engineering basics.

Related Earthquakes Reading:

Earthquakes (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)
by Dr. Franklyn M. Branley (Author), Megan Lloyd (Illustrator)

Read and find out about one of nature’s most mysterious forces—the earthquake. Some earthquakes are so small that you don’t even feel them, while others can make even big buildings shake! Learn why earthquakes happen, where they are most likely to occur, and what to do if one happens near you.

Now rebranded with a new cover look and with updated text and art, this classic picture book describes the causes and effects of earthquakes (including a tsunami). This book features rich vocabulary and fascinating cross-sections of mountains, volcanoes, and faults in the earth’s moving... View Details


Earthquakes
by Seymour Simon (Author)

Seymour Simon knows how to explain science to kids and make it fun. He was a teacher for over twenty years, has written more than 250 books, and has won multiple awards. In Earthquakes, Simon introduces elementary-school readers to earthquakes through engaging descriptions and stunning full-color photographs. He teaches readers why and how earthquakes happen and the damage they can cause through pictures, diagrams, and maps. He also gives real life examples of earthquakes that have occurred all over the world. This book includes a glossary and index.

Supports the Common Core... View Details


Earthquakes (True Books: Earth Science (Paperback))
by Ker Than (Author)

- Clean new design for easy readability and comprehension
- Updated text presented in a lively, continuous narrative
- New center-spread sidebar feature presenting material in a fun, creative way
- Excellent age-appropriate introduction to curriculum-relevant subjects
- Important Words glossary clarifies subject-specific vocabulary
- Resources section encourages independent study
- Index makes navigating subject matter easy View Details


The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet
by Henry Fountain (Author)

New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

In the bestselling tradition of Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm, The Great Quake is a riveting narrative about the biggest earthquake in North American recorded history -- the 1964 Alaska earthquake that demolished the city of Valdez and swept away the island village of Chenega -- and the geologist who hunted for clues to explain how and why it took place.

At 5:36 p.m. on March 27, 1964, a magnitude 9.2. earthquake – the second most powerful in world history – struck the young state of Alaska. The... View Details


National Geographic Kids Everything Volcanoes and Earthquakes: Earthshaking photos, facts, and fun!
by Kathy Furgang (Author)

National Geographic Kids Everything Volcanoes and Earthquakes explodes with incredible photos and amazing facts about the awesome powers of nature. You'll find out that three-quarters of Earth's volcanoes are underwater, that an earthquake in Chile shortened the day by 1.26 milliseconds, and much more. Bursting with fascinating information about the biggest volcanic eruptions and earth-shattering earthquakes, this book takes a fun approach to science, introducing kids to plate tectonics and the tumultuous forces brewing beneath the Earth's surface. Filled with fabulous photos and... View Details


Earthquakes! (TIME FOR KIDS® Nonfiction Readers)
by Teacher Created Materials (Author)

Early elementary readers find out what causes earthquakes and what to do to stay safe if one occurs in this helpful nonfiction reader. Featuring informational text, colorful maps, diagrams, and vibrant photos, this book keeps children engaged and fascinated at the same time!

About Shell Education
Rachelle Cracchiolo started the company with a friend and fellow teacher. Both were eager to share their ideas and passion for education with other classroom leaders. What began as a hobby, selling lesson plans to local stores, became a part-time job after a full day of teaching,... View Details


DK Readers L4: Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters
by Harriet Griffey (Author)

DK is reissuing some of its most beloved Readers with a fresh new look, perfect for 21st century kids! From the eruption of Mount Vesuvius to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters brings readers face to face with some of the deadliest natural disasters of all time and teaches the scientific forces that cause these incredible events. View Details


I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 (I Survived #5)
by Lauren Tarshis (Author), Scott Dawson (Illustrator)

Ten-year-old Leo loves being a newsboy in San Francisco -- not only does he get to make some money to help his family, he's free to explore the amazing, hilly city as it changes and grows with the new century. Horse-drawn carriages share the streets with shiny new automobiles, new businesses and families move in every day from everywhere, and anything seems possible.

But early one spring morning, everything changes. Leo's world is shaken -- literally -- and he finds himself stranded in the middle of San Francisco as it crumbles and burns to the ground. Does Leo have what it takes to... View Details


Earthquakes: Geology and Weather (Science Readers)
by Teacher Created Materials (Author)

Most of the Earth's changes happen over millions of years, but earthquakes can force significant changes to the land in just a few moments. Readers will learn the science of plate tectonics and its role in the development of earthquakes around the globe. They will also learn that not all rocks are created equal. In fact, rocks are all different ages! This book concludes with images of the damage and destruction that earthquakes can cause.

About Shell Education
Rachelle Cracchiolo started the company with a friend and fellow teacher. Both were eager to share their ideas and... View Details


Earthquakes: Science & Society (2nd Edition)
by David S. Brumbaugh (Author)

This reader-friendly, carefully illustrated text introduces the scientific, historical, and personal safety aspects of earthquakes. It is significantly broader in perspective than other texts on the subject, providing the basic scientific facts about earthquakes, explaining how the study of earthquakes has progressed through time, offering details on the development of earthquake instruments, and covering immediately practical aspects such as personal safety, building and living in areas prone to earthquakes, and earthquake geography. No prior courses are assumed.

View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Attention Please
In an age of constant information and infinite distractions, how can we pay more attention to our ... attention? This hour, TED speakers explore the battle for our awareness during the digital age. Guests include sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, podcast host Manoush Zomorodi, neuroscientist Amishi Jha, designer Tristan Harris, and computer scientist Jaron Lanier.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#475 Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You (Rebroadcast)
This week, we're learning how deadly and delightful our planet and its ecosystem can be. We're joined by biologist Dan Riskin, co-host of Discovery Canada's Daily Planet, to talk about his book "Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You: a Lively Tour Through the Dark Side of the Natural World." And we'll talk to astronomer and author Phil Plait about Science Getaways, his company that offers educational vacation experiences for science lovers.