Apparatus & Equipment, Tech Zone

Firefighting Tech Roundup: Fluid-Driven Lighting, Handheld Explosion Detecting Device, More

ITRI’s Fluid-Driven Lighting for firefighting an R&D 100 Award finalist; technology available for licensing to fire service manufacturers

The Industrial Technology Research Institute (, Taiwan’s largest high-tech applied research institution’s recently introduced its Fluid-Driven Emergency Lighting line, a high-illumination LED light driven by micro-hydropower, featuring Fluid-Driven Nozzle Light (FDNL) and the Fluid-Driven Sprinkler Light (FDSL). The FDNL is mounted on firefighting nozzles; the FDSL is attached to sprinkler heads inside buildings. The technology, which combines an innovative water turbine microgenerator with LED light engines to provide illumination without extrinsic electricity, is a finalist for the R&D 100 Award ( in the “Market Disruptor Product” category.

According to Jung-Huang Liao, manager of ITRI’s Green Energy and Environment Research Laboratories, “In a fire scene, power outages and smoke compromise the ability to see; therefore, effective lighting is crucial for firefighters and all people involved …. Fluid-Driven Emergency Lighting offers two unique solutions. The FDNL offers a powerful light and improves ease of firefighter equipment operation during life-saving rescue missions, and the FDSL provides a reliable light source during structure fires via building sprinkler systems.”

How the Technology Works

Fluid-Driven Emergency Lighting generates electricity to power the light when water flows through the turbine blade within the micro-generator. A floating rotor in the turbine generator ensures functional reliability of the firefighting nozzles and the sprinklers. It enables an external magnet-coil pair configuration, making the device thinner and lighter. The hollow ring-type design allows debris to pass through easily, increasing its reliability when broken blades or muddy water are present. A self-lubricating seal is formed when all rotating parts and contact surfaces are immersed in water. The water pressure from both sides of the ring, along with its centrifugal force, helps maintain the rotor balance.

FDNL is available for licensing to fire apparatus manufacturers. FDSL will be available for use in buildings in 2016. ITRI holds 30 patents from 23 countries on Fluid-Driven Emergency Lighting technology. Interested companies should contact ITRI at (408) 428-9988 and [email protected].


According to ITRI, FDNL is for use in structural firefighting, wildland firefighting, and any other firefighting function in which a hose and nozzle are used. It is lightweight and maintenance free as long as there is water running. One minute of water flow can provide three minutes of lighting; there is no need for batteries. It takes 30 seconds to attach to a standard fire hose nozzle. It was field-tested by 120 firefighting squads in Taiwan.


During a fire, ITRI reports, FDSL provides reliable sources of light for first responders and people in danger and enables better vision when the environment is filled with smoke and dark. The high temperature activates the sprinkler, and the flow of the water generates electricity to power the FDSL, which projects a laser-based holography pattern light.

ITRI was founded in 1973. It has played a vital role in transforming Taiwan’s industries from labor-intensive into technology-oriented. It focuses on the fields of Smart Living, Quality Health, and Sustainable Environment. ITRI has incubated more than 260 innovative companies. Headquartered in Taiwan, ITRI has branch offices in Silicon Valley, Tokyo, Berlin, Moscow, and Eindhoven. Additional information is at

The R&D 100 Awards were established in 1963 and were originally called the I-R 100s, in keeping with the original name of the magazine, Industrial Research. A formal entry procedure was established in 1964; the magazine’s editors (with the advice of outside experts) selected the winners. The first winners’ technologies were awarded in 1965.

Questions may also be directed to Michelle van Kriedt/ Masha Rumer, Graham & Associates,  (415) 986-7212, [email protected].

Stanford, DARPA advance military-health handheld detecting device

When the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sought a method to detect plastic explosives buried underground – improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – without touching the ground surface and setting off an explosion, the agency turned to Stanford University researchers.

The Stanford research team built ultrasonic transducers that can detect ultrasound signals after they leave the ground for the air. The signals weaken as they move from the solids underground through the air to the detector.

According to Stanford’s Assistant Professor Amin Arbabian and Research Professor Pierre Khuri-Yakub, leaders of the Stanford research, the device never touches the subject, and all the measurements are made through the air.  These properties are bringing the researchers nearer to another goal, one that they have had for some time, to use the device in medical applications.

Khuri-Yakub said they have been working on this device for a little more than two years. He noted that the researchers are confident that in five to 15 years such a medical device will be “practical and widely available.” With this new device, tumors would show up as ultrasound hotspots. Arbabian added that the instrumentation, a nonintrusive handheld portable device, would be sensitive enough to identify the presence of tumors and maybe other health anomalies much earlier than detection systems now in use.

Both the military and the medical applications of the Stanford work are based on two scientific principles: (1) When electromagnetic energy (light or microwaves) stimulate materials, the materials expand and contract and (2) The ultrasound waves produced by the expansion and contraction travel to the surface and can be detected remotely. Actually, Alexander Graham Bell first demonstrated this principle in 1880 while experimenting with wireless transmission of sound through light beams—using light, he succeeded in having sound come from a receiver made of carbon black, replicating a musical tone. The Stanford engineers built on these principles to develop a device that could “hear” hidden objects.

The resulting new microwave- and ultrasound-detection system, the researchers say, will be more portable and less expensive than other medical imaging devices such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT), and safer than X-rays. Additional information is at

Thorium replacement for uranium in nuclear reactors?

The damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, in March 2011, caused by a devastating earthquake and tsunami has reminded nations of the potential hazards of nuclear reactors. One consequence of this disaster has been to reassess uranium as the standard reactor fuel. Participants from 30 nations attending a conference in India in October met to consider this fuel issue. Some countries are considering the use of thorium as a nuclear reactor fuel. Compared with uranium, thorium is more abundant, is not as easy to use to produce weapons, and generates less radioactive waste. Several nations are considering thorium reactors in which the fuel is dissolved in a bath of molten salt. India anticipates having a power reactor that uses solid thorium fuel in operating within 10 years. (Pallava Bagla, Science Weekly News, Vol. 350, Issue 6262, Nov. 13, 2015.)

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.