Photo: Fire chaser beetle’ Courtesy of U. Schmidt/Flickr


Sensing fires for early detection

The Black Fire – melanophilia – beetle lays its eggs in the charred remains of a forest fire. It has a sensor design with the ability to detect flames perhapsas far as 80 kilometres away. It can also hear the cracking of the wood and sense combustion products in very small amounts by using supersensitive receptors which are located in tiny pits on the beetle’s chest receptors. These enabled the beetle to sense infrared radiation – the heat given off by a blazing inferno – helping it to zero and get closer to a forest fire. Scientists in Germany have mimicked the features of the infrared feelers to see if they can manufacture sensor devices which could be mounted around forests alerting to a fire early on.

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