Laser tool investigated to cut trapped passengers from car wrecks

Investigations are being made into building a mobile laser unit for rescuing trapped passengers in car wrecks. The laser will be used where standard equipment would fail to cut through the high strength materials from which modern cars are made.

The unit is being developed by a collaboration of 15 entities, including Laser Zentrum Hannover, Coherent, five project partners and eight associated partners.

The new laser unit will enable fire-fighters to rescue passengers trapped in high-strength wreckage in shorter times. (Credit: LZH)

Falling traffic fatality rates over the past 25 years can be attributed to the use of high-tensile steel and high strength composite materials in modern cars. The higher vehicle stability achieved by using these materials, however, becomes a problem in the event of an accident where a passenger becomes trapped in wreckage. Rescue tools that are currently available, such as power, plasma or hydraulic rescue cutters require a lot of time to cut through the high strength materials, or even fail in certain cases.

The compact laser unit is intended to be used when conventional rescue tools are insufficient on their own. With the new system, it will be possible to cut modern materials in a short time, or simply broach them so that they can be cut faster with conventional tools.

The collaboration will also investigate whether the safety of using lasers at the site of an accident can be guaranteed. Scientists will evaluate which measures must be taken to protect rescue teams, accident victims and other people at the scene. This could involve the use safety curtains, mats and protection glasses.

The project is being sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the scope of the programme ‘Civil safety – innovative rescue and safety systems’, which runs until October 2019.

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By Dave MacLellan, Executive Director, AILU


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