Michigan Scientists Develop Remote Forest Fire Alarm

AdobeStock by Nathan Queloz

Scientists from Michigan State University have developed a way to detect forest fires by the movement of the trees in the wind. California, in particular, has seen challenges when it comes to forest fires. Also earlier this year we remember the tragic forest fires in Australia. These events led the Michigan scientists to develop this new forest fire alarm and detector technology.

Published in the journal of Advanced Functional Materials, the device is battery-free and self-powered by the movement of the tree branches from which it hangs.

“The self-powered sensing system could continuously monitor the fire and environmental conditions without requiring maintenance after deployment,” wrote lead author Changyong Cao, a mechanical engineer on the team.

Changyong Cao, MSU
Changyong Cao, MSU

The device is small and only costs $20 to make. Traditional methods of detecting forest fires are not nearly as efficient. Satellites and ground patrol become too labour intensive. The device will keep track of weather and environmental conditions as they change to set alarm.

The technology was chosen because of how little energy it needs. “At a very low vibration frequency, the MC-TENG can efficiently generate electricity to charge the attached supercapacitor in less than three minutes,” Cao said. All it takes is small gusts of wind to move the tree branches.