Team Shows Laser Ranging Can ‘See’ 3D Objects Melting In Fires

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have used a laser detection and ranging (LADAR) system to image three-dimensional (3-D) objects melting in flames. The method could offer a precise, safe and compact way to measure structures as they collapse in fires.

Optical range measurements, already used in manufacturing and other fields, may help overcome practical challenges posed by structural fires, which are too hot to measure with conventional electromechanical sensors mounted on buildings.

As described in Optica, the NIST demonstration used a commercial LADAR system to map distances to objects melting behind flames that produced varying amounts of soot. The experiment measured 3-D surfaces with a precision of 30 micrometers (millionths of a meter) or better from 2 meters away. This level of precision meets requirements for most structural fire research applications, according to the paper.

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