Mining Project: Breathing Air Supplies Research

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Principal Investigator
Start Date 10/1/2015
End Date 9/30/2018

To improve breathing air supplies by conducting a development program; exploring and identifying technologies in other fields that may be adapted; designing, developing, and producing technology demonstrators; validating these demonstrators through theoretical and experimental means; and making available information and hardware to assist breathing air supply manufacturers in producing certified products and systems for use in underground mining.

Topic Area

Research Summary

Mining disasters have highlighted deficiencies in breathing air supply (BAS) technologies that are available post-disaster for escaping miners. The MINER Act of 2006 specifically identifies oxygen supplies as an area that needs more attention and directs research to be conducted to yield solutions. Breathing air supplies for underground mining refer to a range of devices and systems that offer respiratory protection to miners in the event of an emergency—namely escape devices and systems, rescue breathing apparatus, and gas supplies for refuge alternatives.

The research aims of this BAS project were as follows:

  • Understand the current state of BAS technologies in mining.
  • Explore technologies relevant to BAS such as efficiency improvements and breathing gas chemicals.
  • Study technologies implemented by other sectors to generate breathing air.
  • Identify technologies useful for BAS and adopt applicable technologies for BAS.
  • Focus on critical component development for seamless changeover from one breathing apparatus to another—i.e., ease of donning, comfort in use and effective communications—that can be used in current and next-generation breathing apparatus.
  • Develop the next-generation BAS by addressing the overall efficiency of self-contained breathing apparatus designs; designing self-contained self-rescuers (SCSRs) or closed-circuit escape respirators (CCERs), closed-circuit oxygen breathing apparatus (CCBAs) and open-circuit self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBAs); improving compressed air and developing liquid-air refill stations; optimizing open-circuit SCBA for mine escape use.
  • Address and incorporate human factors and ergonomics considerations towards wearable and useable next-generation designs of BAS.
  • Understand and address relevant standards, approvals, and policy implications.
  • Keep in view training considerations for the next generation of BAS.

While meeting the MINER Act requirement, this project research developed improved breathing protection technology for the mining community in the form of technology demonstrators and prototype systems using state-of-the-art materials and techniques. Usability studies conducted on these systems and the developed prototypes—including detailed information from project reports, research papers, test data, drawings/solid models, and technical data packages—will be disseminated and will allow for a path to commercialization.


Page last reviewed: March 8, 2019
Page last updated: March 30, 2017