MEMS Researchers Create Monitors To Reduce Maintenance Cost of Respirator Masks


November 12, 2002

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon's microelectrical mechanical (MEMS) lab received an initial $190,000 grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to create monitors that will reduce the cost of keeping respirator masks in top shape.

Gary Fedder, Associate Professor of ECE and Robotics, and his team will determine the shelf life of cartridges inside gas masks used by a variety of rescue and emergency service organizations, including fire departments and paramedics. The technology will alert users when filters are nearing the end of their effectiveness and may no longer provide adequate protection against hazardous gases, fumes and vapors. The research will also help users avoid discarding filters that are still effective, under the misperception that the filters no longer function effectively.

At Carnegie Mellon's MEMS lab, which combines sensors, mechanisms and digital smarts on a single sliver of silicon, researchers are trying to make efficient and economical mask monitors. A monitor would set off an alarm if a filter cartridge was nearing the end of its service life. Before critical exposure, an alarm would signal the user to replace the mask cartridge, according to Fedder.

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