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Optic system helps firefighters in rescues

Feb. 26, 2013 at 5:00 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Italian researchers say a new technique that uses infrared digital holography can allow firefighters to see through flames and capture images of moving people.

The technology can overcome a common challenge for firefighters trying to see through thick veils of smoke and walls of flame to find people in need of rescue, the researchers report in Optics Express, the journal of the Optical Society of America.

Firefighters can see through smoke using current IR camera technology, the researchers said, but such instruments are blinded by the intense infrared radiation emitted by flames; now a specialized lens-free technique has created a system able to cope with the flood of radiation in an environment filled with flames as well as smoke.

"It became clear to us that we had in our hands a technology that could be exploited by emergency responders and firefighters at a fire scene to see through smoke without being blinded by flames, a limitation of existing technology," researcher Pietro Ferraro of Italy's National Research Council said. "Perhaps most importantly, we demonstrated for the first time that a holographic recording of a live person can be achieved even while the body is moving."

The technology could have other uses, he said.

"Besides life-saving applications in fire and rescue, the potential to record dynamic scenes of a human body could have a variety of other biomedical uses including studying or monitoring breathing, cardiac beat detection and analysis, or measurement of body deformation due to various stresses during exercise," Ferraro said.

"We are excited to further develop this technology and realize its application for saving and improving human life."

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