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Contract # 200-2011-40687
Start Date 9/12/2011
End Date 9/30/2014
Research Concept

This contract seeks to develop a “smart” self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) prototype designed to be used in escape situations. The Smart Escape SCBA protects against threat gasses such as carbon monoxide and other products of combustion and provides an extended duration of life-sustaining oxygen inhale stream. The use of a hood or mask also allows the wearer to communicate verbally. By monitoring the surrounding atmosphere, the Smart Escape SCBA adds oxygen to the filtered air supply only when deficiencies are detected. It could greatly increase the life of the SCBA as compared to a one-hour self-contained self-rescuer (SCSR) with the same oxygen supply.

Topic Area

Contract Status & Impact

This contract is complete. To receive a copy of the final report, send a request to

In the event of an explosion or fire in an underground mine, workers can be exposed to a deficiency of oxygen, an excess of carbon monoxide, smoke, or other toxic gasses. These threats can occur as separate conditions or simultaneously.

At the present time, a closed-circuit self-contained self-rescuer (SCSR) is used as a breathing apparatus to aid mine workers in self-escape during an emergency. The SCSR completely isolates the miner from the surrounding atmosphere. Therefore, it does not take advantage of the fact that the surrounding mine atmosphere likely contains some level of useable oxygen. Since an SCSR always supplies the total required oxygen from its limited supply, there is a ceiling on its useful life regardless of the level of oxygen in the surrounding air. The combination of a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and an appropriate filter could close this technology gap. To this end, Avon Protection was contracted to develop a “smart” SCBA that provides filtration and catalytic protection against threat gasses and has an extended-duration life-sustaining oxygen inhale stream independent of the threat content and oxygen deficiency of the surrounding atmosphere.

The Smart Escape SCBA, developed under this contract, is a hybrid system that provides non-toxic breathing air by using an approved Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) filter combined with a catalyst to convert high levels of carbon monoxide to harmless carbon dioxide. In addition, the Oxygen Dosing Electronics (ODE) package adds sufficient oxygen to make up for deficiencies detected in the ambient air. By making use of the ambient oxygen, less oxygen is required for a one-hour unit life. This means that the Smart Escape SCBA fits in a smaller and lighter package than a similar-duration conventional SCSR. Alternatively, the use of ambient oxygen could offer a significant increase in SCSR life in a unit of the same size as current SCSRs.

The research performed under this contract involved numerous tasks: (1) definition of performance and system requirements for the Smart Escape SCBA, including keeping environmental stressors within acceptable ranges, providing at least one hour of breathable oxygen supply, and using a mask or hood that allows high-quality voice communication; (2) designing, building, and evaluating prototype units to support extensive bench top testing at Avon and third party labs to demonstrate the device’s capabilities; (3) designing the electronics in accordance with the MSHA intrinsically safe criteria; (4) testing and evaluation by the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL); and (5) on-site support and training to CDC NIOSH staff.

Page last reviewed: July 18, 2016
Page last updated: February 6, 2015