New fire detector will sound the alarm earlier

Jack Stenglein

A new fire detector developed by a UT undergraduate will notice flames before things get heated.

Isaac Laseter, physics and astronomy freshman, is building a new type of fire detector that relies on thermal imaging rather than smoke. He says this new alarm, called ThermaSec, will detect fire in a matter of seconds while current smoke detectors take minutes.

“When I had the idea, I didn’t know if it was solving anything,” Laseter said. “Then I talked to the local fire department and asked them the one thing that would help the most. They said time. Every 30 seconds, the fire doubles, so detecting it during the first second is significant.”

Laseter said ThermaSec will have a sensor that takes in light and heat from the surrounding area. A basic computer then uses that data to determine the temperature. When the temperature rises above a certain threshold, such as 500 degrees, the computer will trigger the alarm.

Laseter said that he is currently working on a simple prototype of the detector. His most recent version takes in the data from its surroundings, but he said his limited electrical engineering knowledge makes the work slow.

“I’m keeping it simplistic right now,” Laseter said. “I want any type of indicator, not a full-scale alarm system. I’m trying to find extra help. I emailed 15 professors, but none have responded. As soon as I have the prototype, I’m confident it can be sized up and that it will take off from there.”

Laseter added that even once the detector is finished, his work will not be done. He said he will eventually meet with lawyers to patent his product and make sure it abides by fire codes.  

Laseter said that he originally wanted to sell the fire detectors for home use, but that the floor plans of many houses could make it hard for the detector to see fires. Instead, he decided to sell to businesses.

“I was walking around Walmart and saw they had hundreds of detectors,” Laseter said. “My detectors will cover more area, so if they only needed 40 of those, then they would be saving money. I want to focus on the business side because they can get the most benefit.”