electrostatic-based air cleaning system invented by ARS may make it easier for
firefighters to deal with thick smoke in stairwells, rooms and other enclosed
Image courtesy Worthington (Ohio)
Fire and EMS.
Smoke-Clearing Technology May Come From Poultry
House Air Scrubber By
Kim Kaplan April
A device invented by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to clean dust and microorganisms from
the air of poultry houses may also help people escape during fires and make it
easier for fire fighters to locate people in smoke-filled rooms.
now retired from ARS, demonstrates the electrostatic-based air cleaning system
Fire fighter training
Image courtesy Fritz Rethage,
Hasbrouck Heights (N.J.) Fire
The technology was originally developed by ARS agricultural engineer
Mitchell, with the agency's
Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, Ga., to trap airborne particles like
dust and microbes in poultry houses. Unlike previous technology, which was
typically large, bulky and expensive, costing from $1,000 to $25,000,
Mitchell's machine is relatively small and could be portable and
ARS has already licensed the device, called the Electrostatic Space
Charge System (ESCS), for agricultural applications to
Baumgartner Environics, Inc., of
ESCS generates a negative electrostatic charge on dust and other
airborne particles, causing them to be attracted to grounded surfaces like
walls or the floor. Unlike most air cleaners, it does not require air to move
through it for cleaning to occur.
Mitchell used a smoke generator to demonstrate ESCS's abilities, which
gave rise to the idea that the device can clean the air of smoke just as easily
as it does dust and microbes. What still needs to be tested is just how fast it
can actually clear smoke to provide a reasonably clear field of vision,
according to Mitchell.
By mounting the self-contained, waterproof device in areas such as
stairwells or hallways, it may be able to give people a clearer path to exits
in the event of a fire. In addition, since the device can also be portable,
firefighters could carry one into smoke-filled buildings to make it easier to
find people who have been overcome. The device is also lightweight and may be
of use in clearing smoke from airplanes and trains as well.
The University of Pittsburgh's
which has a contract with the U.S.
Department of Defense to seek out new technology for first responders, is
planning a series of tests and demonstrations to document the device's ability
to clear smoke from the air.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.