Two professors at Worcester Polytechnic Institute are going to pack a building to the gills with very expensive sensors that took a decade to create. Then they're gonna burn that sucker down. You know, for science.
If successful, the technology could be used by firefighters to detect when they're one minute away from flashover - the moment when a room hits 1100F (593.3C) and everything goes boom. That minute would be enough time for the firefighters to exit the building before being swallowed up in an inferno. Currently, because their protective jackets and helmets are so effective, even experienced firefighters have no way of feeling that the temperature has reached a danger zone until seconds before it's too late.
In addition to sensors checking room temperature, location beacons will be attached to the firefighters' uniforms, and face mask sensors will keep tabs on pulse, blood-oxygen levels, and breathing rates.
Even if this month's test goes well, we're probably three years away from seeing a practical, widespread implementation of the technology. But the sooner the better: just because fire is primitive doesn't mean our tools to fight it has to be. [PopSci]