Fire Prevention & Protection, Tech Zone

Fire Tech Roundup: Web-Connected Cars, Chemical Weapons, and More

Here’s a look at some recent technological developments that may impact the firefighting community.

FDNY BC (Ret.) Keys and Fire-Dex finalize consulting agreement

Fire-Dex, a leading manufacturer of firefighter protective apparel, has entered into a formal consulting partnership agreement with Fire Department of New York (FDNY) Battalion Chief (Ret.) Bob Keys, principal at Fire-Research and Development of New York Consulting, LLC. Keys will assist METRO Department Sales Manager Allen Rom and will work with large fire departments in the United States and Canada. “We are thrilled to be working with Bob,” notes Bill Burke, CEO and chairman of Fire-Dex. “His experience and knowledge make him the perfect partner to help Fire-Dex grow our METRO business.”

Keys, who recently completed a 31-year career within FDNY, is a decorated battalion chief. He also served in various other capacities, including as chief-in-charge of the Research and Development Unit. His responsibilities, which included testing, developing, and certifying new and existing equipment used by more than FDNY’s 11,000 firefighters, have earned him recognition as an industry expert in incorporating into the fire service new technology for improving communication and personnel safety.

Fire-Dex, a personally held company, is a quality manufacturer of protective firefighting clothing; emergency response apparel; and premium quality National Fire Protection Association-compliant hoods, gloves, helmets, and boots. Additional information is at

Internet-connected cars boon for auto, tech, and telecom markets?

According to a new report by BI Intelligence, not only will the Internet-connected car present “massive new business” for auto, tech, and telecom companies, but it estimates that by 2020, “75 percent of the 92 million cars shipped globally will be built with the necessary hardware to connect to the Internet.”

The report addresses issues such as price, embedded or secondary-device connections, the pairing of car companies with wireless service providers to bring Internet service into the cars, and numerous other issues. The complete article is at

Detecting chemical weapons with a color-changing film
Timothy M. Swager and Jonathan G. Weis, of the Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have developed a thin-film material that rapidly changes color in the presence of chemical warfare agents (CWAs). In their paper “Thiophene-Fused Tropones as Chemical Warfare Agent-Responsive Building Blocks,” published in the journal ACS Macro Letters,1 Swager and Weis explain that thin film is easier to use for this purpose than other CWA identification techniques. The researchers reported that their new film material rapidly changed color in tests that used a simulated chemical nerve agent. The researchers say “a family of such materials could be developed to sense various chemical threats.” The article can be downloaded at Dr. Swager may be reached at [email protected]

1ACS Macro Lett., 2015, 4 (1), pp 138–142, DOI: 10.1021/mz5007848, Publication Date (Web): January 8, 2015. © 2015 American Chemical Society

Coating could make oil-spill cleanup faster and more efficient

Researchers P.S. Brown, O.D.L.A. Atkinson, and J.P.S. Badyal, Ph.D. have developed coatings that can separate oil from water efficiently and also perform as an anti-fogging and self-cleaning film. Their report “Ultrafast Oleophobic-Hydrophilic Switching Surfaces for Antifogging, Self-Cleaning, and Oil-Water Separation” appears in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.1

The researchers explain that absorbents, such as clays, straw, and wool, often used by crews that clean up oil spills generally are not ultra-efficient because they also pick up a lot of water, necessitating extra steps and equipment to remove the oil from the absorbent.

Some researchers have turned to “oleophobic-hydrophilic” coatings for cleaning up oil. Although these films repel oil, they reportedly took several minutes to do the separation and were complicated to make. Badyal’s team sought to resolve these issues. They developed oleophobic-hydrophilic coatings and applied them to pieces of metal mesh, like that used in screen doors, and then poured an oil-water mixture onto it. The water dripped through into the container below while the oil remained on top of the mesh surface. When the researchers tilted the mesh, the oil went into its designated container. The separation was instantaneous, and it only took one step to make the coating, according to the report. The team also demonstrated that the coating could serve as an anti-fogging and self-cleaning film. Funding for this research was provided by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

1 “Ultrafast Oleophobic-Hydrophilic Switching Surfaces for Antifogging, Self-Cleaning, and Oil-Water Separation.” P S. Brown , O.D L.A. Atkinson, and J.P.S. Badyal. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2014, 6 (10), pp 7504–7511. DOI: 10.1021/am500882y. Web April 30, 2014 © 2014 American Chemical Society. Contact: [email protected]

FluoroCouncil guidance on environmental practices for apparel industry
The FluoroCouncil,1 a global organization representing the world’s leading FluoroTechnology companies, has released “Guidance for Best Environmental Practices (BEP) for the Global Apparel Industry: Including Focus on Fluorinated Repellent Products.” According to the Council, this document provides an overview of best environmental practices to help mills and finishers minimize waste and environmental releases while keeping desirable fluorinated product performance in the textile.

The document, available in English, Chinese, Japanese, and German, outlines practical steps to implement best environmental practices for fluorinated durable water repellent (DWR) apparel. In addition, it provides a list of questions for packagers, brands, and retailers to ask their suppliers to ensure goods received are finished using best available technology and best environmental practices.

Jessica Bowman, executive director of FluoroCouncil, explains, “The goal of the document is to encourage the implementation of best environmental practices, therefore minimizing waste and environmental releases. Following such practices is good business and even better stewardship.”

FluoroTechnology products offer performance properties for the outdoor apparel industry, such as breathable membranes and long-lasting DWR finishes that provide water repellency, oil repellency, stain resistance, soil release, and abrasion-resistant finishes.

The Council works with regulatory authorities and other stakeholders worldwide to innovate and drive increasingly sustainable FluoroTechnology solutions, including newly developed short-chain products. Additional information is available at

1 FluoroCouncil was founded in 2011. Members include Archroma Management LLC, Arkema France, Asahi Glass Co., Ltd., Daikin Industries, Ltd., DuPont Company, and Solvay Specialty Polymers.

Smart keyboard cleans and powers itself–and can boost security

Can a self-cleaning, self-powered smart keyboard that can identify computer users by the way they type enhance the security of computers? Researchers Zhong Lin Wang and colleagues note in “Personalized Keystroke Dynamics for Self-Powered Human-Machine Interfacing”1 in the journal ACS Nano that such a keyboard “could provide an additional layer of protection to boost the security of our computer systems.”

The researchers point out that, as the increasing number of reported hacking incidents have shown, passwords are vulnerable to theft. The team’s smart keyboard identifies individuals’ typing patterns (pressure applied to keys and speed). An individual would not be able to access the computer with the correct password unless that person’s typing pattern is the same as that of the person authorized to use the computer. The keyboard can also harness the energy generated from typing to power itself or another small device and has a special surface coating that repels dirt and grime. The U.S. Department of Energy funded this research.

1“Personalized Keystroke Dynamics for Self-Powered Human–Machine Interfacing” Jun Chen, Guang Zhu, Jin Yang, et al., ACS Nano, 2015, 9 (1), pp 105–116. DOI: 10.1021/nn506832w. Dec. 30, 2014. © 2014 American Chemical Society. Address correspondence to [email protected]

Mary Jane DittmarMARY JANE DITTMAR is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering and conference manager of FDIC. Before joining the magazine in January 1991, she served as editor of a trade magazine in the health/nutrition market and held various positions in the educational and medical advertising fields. She has a bachelor’ degree in English/journalism and a master’ degree in communication arts.