will build a new SCBA prototype based on a design developed by the International Association of Fire Fighters and paid for through U.S. grants. Rich Duffy, assistant to the general president of the IAFF, said the association has been working on a next-generation design that uses pressure-vessel technology to reduce the form factor and weight compared to those units currently in use.
“The biggest improvement is that it is significantly lighter and its size has been reduced to less than a third compared to before,” Duffy said.
Duffy said the technology was pitched to the IAFF by a NASA rocket scientist, who had developed a lighter, more ruggedized SCBA unit. To fund the project, the association asked for more than $2.7 million from the DHS Science and Technology Directorate. The result of the research is a new, flat-pack technology that uses a high-temperature lining instead of the conventional aluminum liners used in SCBA cylinders.
“The aluminum cylinder has been eliminated and now we are using a high-temperature plastic called Hydro,” Duffy said. “In addition, the individual cells now are braided with Kevlar and wrapped with carbon fiber to improve the strength so if it is punctured it doesn’t fragment. Instead, the gas just vents out.”
A fully functional prototype SCBA is to be field tested in fire and law-enforcement departments starting this September, Duffy said. The prototype built by MSA first must pass the Department of Transportation’s cylinder certification, as well as meetand NFPA certification requirements.
“By September, we will have a technology that is certifiable to the DOT, NIOSH and NFPA for breathing apparatus,” Duffy said. “At that point, it will be up to the manufacturers to get it out there.”