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Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

An Electronic Rescue Dog


A search and rescue dog working with a handler in a mudslide area.

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created technology that can detect humans by their smells, which could potentially aid search and rescue teams.

Credit: barkandswagger.com

ETH Zurich researchers in Switzerland have created technology that can detect human metabolic emissions, which could potentially aid search and rescue teams.

ETH Zurich's Sotiris Pratsinis and his team developed a device with a combination of sensors that pick up traces of acetone, ammonia, and isoprene with off-the-shelf carbon dioxide and moisture detectors. Humans emit these compounds through their breath and skin, and laboratory tests in partnership with Austrian and Cypriot researchers demonstrated that the device can help in searches for entrapped people.

The team employed a test chamber at the University of Innsbruck's Institute for Breath Research to simulate entrapment while volunteers wearing breathing masks spent two hours inside it. Separate breath and skin emission profiles were generated, and Pratsinis says the detector is "the smallest and cheapest device that is sufficiently sensitive to detect entrapped people."

From ETH Zurich
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