Early Warning Fire Alarm Detects the Telltale Gases That Precede Smoke

Illustration for article titled Early Warning Fire Alarm Detects the Telltale Gases That Precede Smoke

A well-maintained smoke detector is a must for every home, but often, smoke isn’t the first byproduct of a smoldering fire. So researchers have developed a new kind of fire alarm that detects carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide instead, to identify fires at an earlier stage.

The new sensors work by shining blue LED light through a special dye and onto a special optical detector. When a fire first starts, carbon monoxide is released which causes that dye to glow with a different color. That change in color is then immediately detected by the optical detector and the alarm sounds. The same goes for nitrogen oxide which usually follows the release of carbon monoxide during a fire.

The smallest amount of either gas in the air will trigger the alarm’s sensors, and that means that homeowners have more time to escape before smoke starts to billow making it difficult to see and breathe.


The researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM in Freiburg, Germany, have also ensured that the technology developed for the new gas sensors remains affordable by using the same mass-produced components already found in existing smoke detectors. The extra optical components might add a few extra bucks to the price tag, but that’s hardly an issue when the detectors could give your family more time to escape a fire unharmed.

[Fraunhofer Institute]

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You know what would be nice? A home fire alarm that doesn’t have a ridiculous high pitch.

I understand the importance of them being loud so it wakes you up if you are sleeping, but why does the pitch have to be so high? I wish engineers would realize that as people get older, they tend to lose hearing in the upper range. Lower the pitch and the volume can also probably be lowered a bit.

Also, there is absolutely no reason for a wired fire alarm to chirp/go off right next to your ear when you are changing its backup battery. “Oh crap, my battery is totally dead/missing and the slot is open AND it has only been 45 seconds since the battery slot was opened, I need to chirp right now despite the fact you are standing next to the audio emitter!”

Only a moron would engineer a piece of garbage like our “modern” fire alarms.