Usually seeing through the flames of a fire is nearly impossible, which poses a big challenge for firefighters and the manufacturers of building materials. It’s interesting to discover that researchers have now uncovered a way to see through the flames produced by a fire with just two readily available pieces of equipment. These are a Camera fitted with an optical filter and a light source which emits a blue light using LED’s (Light emitting diodes). So, Good news for LED Circuit Design enthusiasts.

The task given to the researchers was to understand how a fire destroys a structure, these tests were run in their own laboratory and on test buildings. Previously, measurements were taken before and after the fire, furthermore following the fire a model would be produced by them showing how the fire progressed to achieve the measurement taken after the fire. The problem which the researchers found with this approach is that a high degree of guess work was involved during the duration of the fire where they simply couldn’t see what was going on beyond the flames. It is critical to know how and exactly when certain items are destroyed by a fire.

Another problem faced by the researchers was that most tools and sensors do not work reliably when subject to extreme heat, even at a distance. Also a camera alone with an optical filter to provide an image of the fire was still unclear and mainly drowned out by flames and created an overwhelmingly red theme. So, the image was pretty useless for the objectives of the researchers which was to see inside the fire in real-time.

This is where the blue light source comes into play, Blue lights have previously been used to view hot materials but never in this extreme application. Researchers discovered that whilst illuminating the fire with these powerful LED’s and recording at the same time with the camera they could actually see beyond, through the flames. This has proved to be a ground breaking discovery and now is being used to determine how building materials are affected by the flames.

Here at Arrow Technical we regularly work with LED’s in numerous lighting applications from LED Circuit Design to various electronic volume manufacturing solutions which incorporate the use of lighting LED’s. So, it is eye opening to see the various other applications in which they can potentially be used. We will be keen to follow how this technology could be formed to potentially aid our fire services.   We have already designed other products for advanced firefighting such as head-up displays, breathing monitoring to prevent hyperventilation and advanced inertial guidance systems to lead fire crews through environments when traditional compass and GPS instruments will not work. Please view our Services page to see if we could be of any assistance.


Graphic created by N. Hanacek/NIST based on a concept by M. Hoehler/NIST  Read more here