UCF researcher awarded $1.5M to develop health monitoring device for firefighters

Every time a firefighter puts their life on the line to save a member of the community, they may be putting their own health at risk as well. Chronic exposure to extreme heat causes the body’s core temperature to rise and lead to a condition known as heat stress, which has been linked to serious medical conditions.

To help firefighters track their physiological response to heat stress, materials science and engineering assistant professor Caitlin Crawford will develop a wearable, wireless health monitor through a $1.5 million grant from the US Department of Homeland Security. The award is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Fire Prevention and Safety Grant Program.

“I am excited and honored to have been selected to lead a large project that has the potential to make a significant positive impact on the fire service community,” says Crawford, the principal investigator on the project. “I look forward to collaborating with the multidisciplinary team – including MSE assistant professor Kaushik Mukhopadhyay, who is co-principal investigator, and sub-inventor at the Illinois Fire Service Institute and Northwestern – and working directly with members of the fire service For an opportunity to negotiate.”

For the next three years, Crawford and his team will develop the Physical Condition Monitor (PSM), which will be ultra-thin, flexible and comfortable for firefighters to wear. The device will be placed directly on the skin to accurately monitor a firefighter’s vital signs and assess their physiological response to heat stress.

Crawford says that the proposed integrative methods will be used for the first time to identify correlations between heat stress and the skin’s thermal activity near the skin’s surface using PSM. Current methods for the assessment of heat stress require the assistance of trained personnel for administration and only account for single exposure events. PSM will address those issues, and the data collected may provide insight into the link between heat stress and the serious medical problems that plague firefighters.

“It is generally understood that acute heat stress contributes to cardiovascular stress, can affect cognitive function, and can increase skin permeability to carcinogens and other combustion products,” says Crawford. “However, it is unknown whether persistent, repeated exposure to heat stress may be a risk factor for occupational accidents, cardiovascular events and cancer over a firefighter’s career.”

The research team hopes to bring PSM to market within the next five to seven years. Crawford says the health monitor could be used by law enforcement, agricultural workers, astronauts, military personnel, and even civilians in hot climates or those exposed to extreme weather conditions.

Mukhopadhyay says the monitor could be especially helpful for people in Florida, because the state has warmer climates than many other parts of the country.

“Ideally, Floridians could in the future wear the device to monitor their heat stress risk during daily outdoor activities — especially in the summer months,” he says.

Crawford joined UCF in 2017 as an assistant professor of materials science and engineering and a member of the Bionics Faculty Cluster. He has also held courtesy appointments at the Department of Chemistry and the Center for Nanoscience Technology. Crawford’s research focuses on identifying new materials for environmentally sustainable sensing applications. He earned his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2015 and his master’s degree in chemistry from North Carolina State University in 2011. He has received more than 10 awards related to research and teaching.

Mukhopadhyay is an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, and he directs the Hybrid Materials and Surfaces Laboratory, where his team applies the fundamentals of materials, chemistry, physics, medicine, and engineering to develop solutions to many exciting research problems related to surfaces. uses principles. Coatings, electrochemistry, corrosion, catalysis and wound healing solutions for acute trauma. Mukhopadhyay holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Calcutta, and received a doctorate in chemistry from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – National Chemical Laboratory.

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