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Chemistry for search-and-rescue missions: Science Elements podcast

The June feature of Science Elements, the ’s (ACS’) weekly series, shines the spotlight on devices that use chemistry to locate people trapped in collapsed buildings.

Every second counts when people are trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building. As survivors breathe in a confined space, oxygen levels go down and carbon dioxide levels go up, a potentially lethal combination. People also can have severe injuries from the falling walls and other debris.

In the episode, Milt Statheropoulos, Ph.D., discusses work that he and colleagues across Europe have been doing on a project called “Second Generation Locator for Urban Search and Rescue Operations.” It includes an automated network of chemical sensors, as well as a portable device that rescuers can take into the field with them. Most recently, they developed a vapor, or scent, generator that workers can use to train rescue dogs.

Other recent topics of Science Elements podcasts include:

  • Beer made from fossilized yeast is ready to make a splash
  • A sustainable paint that repels barnacles
  • How new pressure sensors could lead to safer cars


Dynamic Vapor Generator That Simulates Transient Odor Emissions of Victims Entrapped in the Voids of Collapsed Buildings.Anal. Chem., 2014, 86 (8), pp 3887–3894 DOI: 10.1021/ac404175e Publication Date (Web): March 24, 2014

New episodes are available on iTunes every Monday and Wednesday and on the ACS website every Wednesday.

American Chemical Society