The safety of Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBAs) can be significantly enhanced by on-board electric power. Critical needs for electric power include radio receivers, face-mask pressure sensors, electromechanical air-flow regulators, hazardous chemical detectors and alarms, and distress beacons. Batteries only provide limited power, they are expensive, and they require frequent replacement. We propose to develop an innovative self-powered system in which a miniature generator converts the mechanical energy stored in the SCBA's compressed air into electric power using a small turboalternator. The innovations are (1) a miniature, high- speed, efficient turbine that is inexpensive to manufacture, and (2) a control scheme that enables the turboalternator to operate without wasting any breathing air. In Phase I we will prove the feasibility of the miniature power generator by (1) building and testing a mock-up generator and control system that produces prototypical power levels from compressed air, and (2) designing the generator the generator and electrical systems for a prototypical SCBA. In Phase II we will develop low-cost, manufacturing methods, build and test a prototype air-powered electric generator, and finally build and test a self-powered SCBA with active safety systems.
The primary market for the air powered generator will consist of firefighters, rescue workers, and hazardous materials workers who need SCBAs with improved safety features. The device can be incorporated into new SCBAs and also retrofit to units already in the fields. We estimate the potential market to be in the range of 10,000 to 100,000 units per year. Creare has teamed with one of the leading manufacturers of SBAs to commercialize the air-powered generator.