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The sensor can detect when the firefighters’ protective clothing is no longer safe

By on August 9, 2021 0

Credit: Pixabay / CC0 public domain

Firefighters risk their lives fighting fires, and aging protective gear can put them at even greater risk.

A University of Alberta researcher is working with industry to reduce this risk with a sensor capable of detecting the gradual degradation of clothing due to exposure to heat, humidity and ultraviolet light (UV ).

“These fibers age silently and lose performance, so this sensor technology is a breakthrough in terms of safety for workers exposed to heat and flame,” said Patricia Dolez, Apparel and Textile Scientist, Principal Investigator of the project and Assistant professor at the U of A faculty of agricultural, life and environmental sciences (ALES).

Clothing damage may not be visible to the naked eye until performance is significantly reduced, said Dolez, a researcher in the Department of Human Ecology.

“Firefighters have no way of knowing how safe their clothes are – you can’t tell just by looking at them. “

When fully developed, the sensor patch would provide a means of evaluating the garment without destructive testing, for example having to cut out samples to test the condition of the fabric by conventional methods such as stress testing.

Developed in partnership with Edmonton-based Davey Textile Solutions and other industry partners, the sensor patch uses graphene, a fluffy substance made up of carbon atoms, to form conductive tracks on the surface of the patch. When exposure to heat, humidity or UV light exceeds a certain level, the graphene track is disturbed and loses its electrical conductivity.

Firefighters would use a simple voltmeter to check the safety levels of their clothing on the sensor patch, a result that occurs within seconds.

The sensor has been provisionally patented and is still under development. This comes at an optimal time, Dolez said, as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) prepares to update its clothing care recommendations due to an underlying threat from diseases such as cancer. , which can be caused by the leaching of harmful substances associated with the fire. the fabric.

“The current recommendation is to wash firefighting clothing twice a year, but the problem is that all of the existing data that determines when clothing should be replaced is based on this washing once or twice a year,” she declared.

The new NFPA recommendations are expected to increase the frequency of bleaching after each exposure to a firefighting incident, which means surveillance technology needs to be stepped up as well. “The sensor is important to be able to assess what the garment is going through in each wash.”

Davey Textile Solutions, one of five industry partners working with Dolez, manufactured the flame retardant fabrics that will be used as part of the sensor patch. The company produces reflective trims for protective clothing.

The sensor could also be used in the oil and gas, power, construction and mining industries, said Lelia Lawson, research and development specialist for Davey Textile Solutions.

“This is an example of how we try to be at the forefront of bringing new, proactive items to the market,” Lawson said, noting that one of the biggest questions for customers of the he heavy industry is knowing when to remove personal protective equipment (PPE).

“The sensor removes the ambiguity of this question.”

The sensor research, which began in 2018, also includes the expertise of Jane Batcheller from the Department of Human Ecology at the University of the University and Hyun-Joong Chung, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and materials.

The work produced two scientific papers by graduate students in Clothing and Textile Sciences at ALES and Chemical and Materials Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering. The papers explored the application of graphene to high performance fabrics and how its conductivity is affected by different aging conditions simulating service use.

As part of the Human Ecology Practicum Program, a student worked with Davey Textiles Solutions to develop a business case for commercial sensor applications. The student “was able to provide a lot of good information that supported the need for this product in the industry,” Lawson said.

The expertise the company offers is invaluable, Dolez said.

“Their collaboration ensures that what we develop will be relevant to the industry. As researchers, we can develop something that is a great idea, but if no one is able to produce it, it is not useful, ”she said.

“By having industries like Davey Textile Solutions at the table, we are making sure that what we develop will end up being used.”

The sensor technology is the latest in a series of projects the Department of Human Ecology has conducted with the company through the University of Alberta Protective Clothing and Equipment Research Center. , including the development of clothing to protect workers from steam burns. This work led the Canadian General Standards Board to update a standard used by employers when selecting appropriate PPE for their workers.

Currently, Dolez and Davey Textile Solutions are working together to develop methods of recycling cotton-based materials from used industrial coveralls, otherwise destined for landfill, into fibers that can be used to make new textiles.

“We aim to make new fabrics for PPE and other consumer goods,” Lawson said. “There are more customers who want to buy sustainable products.”

By working with various researchers at the University of Alberta in human ecology and the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Davey Textiles Solutions benefits greatly from their applied research, Lawson said.

“We can market products from their work, and it’s gratifying to have research that evolves into something that can be done in the market.”

The company has over the years welcomed internship students who bring new perspectives to apparel and textile development, Lawson said, adding that the company has hired six graduates from the human ecology program, including herself.

“It says a lot about the caliber of the students in the program. They are very comprehensive as they study humans in their immediate environment, how they interact. Besides the theoretical knowledge of textiles, they also help to understand how these textiles can impact lives, and it helps create better products.

Tight Fitting Flame Resistant Workwear for Women

More information:
Chungyeon Cho et al, Effect of water immersion, bleaching and abrasion on the conductivity of reduced graphene oxide coatings on aramid fabrics, IOP Lecture Series: Materials Science and Engineering (2020). DOI: 10.1088 / 1757-899X / 827/1/012028

Chungyeon Cho et al, Electrical conduction of reduced graphene oxide coated meta-aramid textile and its evolution under aging conditions, Journal of Industrial Textiles (2019). DOI: 10.1177 / 1528083719869387

Provided by the University of Alberta

Quote: Sensor can detect when firefighters’ protective clothing is no longer safe (2021, August 9) retrieved August 9, 2021 from https://techxplore.com/news/2021-08-sensor-firefighters-longer- safe.html

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