NASA’s Space Medicine Program is studying how to optimize oxygen utilization so that multiple individuals can be monitored during transport. Right now oxygen use during transport is not being measured. Scientists at the University of Cincinnati are working on research in this area that is supported by not only by NASA and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, but also by the Office of Naval Research, Wyle Laboratories, and Impact Instrumentation Inc.
The funding is being used to develop an autonomous module that can change settings breath-to-breath based on the individual’s needs and at the same time help maintain an adequate oxygen supply to the body as well as conserve oxygen. The smart technology under development will not only help transport astronauts in space, but the technology may also change the way medicine is practiced for all types of patient transport and in disaster scenarios where patients outnumber medical caregivers.
Also, NASA’s Johnson Space Center has developed technology that incorporates an oxygen partial pressure sensor into an aircraft oxygen mask to alert a pilot or crewmember when the partial pressure of oxygen (PPO) decreases below a predefined safety level. If the oxygen level decreases below the level equivalent to a cabin altitude of 10,000 feet, an auditory or warning device is activated and alerts the pilot and crew so that hypoxia may be avoided.
The technology has numerous applications that not only include commercial and military aviation, but can be used with military field troops, firefighters, and for industrial workers who work in hazardous breathing environments.