Particle Physicists Help Fight Fires
Sun, 14th Oct 2007
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from the show Naked Science Q&A Show
Particle Physicists may help foresters by finding fires for them.
This year, forest fires have been particularly in the news with fires in Greece killing at least 64 people and doing nearly a billion pounds worth of damage. Once the fire has got hold it is almost impossible to fight it - the trick is to catch it before it gets to this stage.
Sattelites can detect fires larger than 30 acres and by looking at the smoke you can find smaller fires, as long as it isn't too windy. Still, this is already too late.
Vladamir Peskov and Antonio Zirhichi have been developing Ultra-violet sensors fot the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, to detect light given off by particles coming out of particle collisons. These detectors are 100 times more sensitive than anything else available, and because flames give off UV light they can detect a flame from 25 meters away and will respond in a few microseconds - it could also be used to detect sparks in oil installations.
They are suggesting mounting their detectors on towers to give firefighters better warning of fires before they become unmanageable.