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New holography device could aid fire-fighters

Posted on Feb 27, 07:28PM | IANS

Rome, Feb 27 : A cutting-edge imaging technique will help fire-fighters see through flames, and thus locate and rescue people trapped at the spot, say scientists.

Called infrared digital (IR) holography, the device addresses the biggest challenge that fire-fighters face -- seeing through thick columns of smoke and walls of flame to find people who need immediate rescue.

Holography is a means of producing a 3-D image in such conditions.

Developed by Italian researchers from the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) Istituto Nazionale di Otticahave, it can not only peer through chaotic conflagrations, but also monitor breathing and detect cardiac beats, the journal Optics Express reports.

Fire-fighters can see through smoke using current IR camera technology.

But many such devices are blinded by the intense infrared radiation emitted by flames, which overwhelm the sensitive detectors and limit their use in the field, according to a CNR statement.

By employing a specialised lens-free technique, the researchers have created a system that is able to cope with the flood of radiation from an environment filled with flames as well as smoke.

"IR cameras cannot 'see' objects or humans behind flames because of the need for a zoom lens that concentrates the rays on the sensor to form the image," says Pietro Ferraro of the CNR, study co-author.

By eliminating the need for the zoom lens, the new technique avoids this drawback.

"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 and cardiac beats, or measurement of body deformation due to various stresses during exercise," Ferraro said.