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The Polish Science Voice
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From the Publisher
April 25, 2013   
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A number of genetic disorders such as learning disabilities, autism, epilepsy or heart defects can now be diagnosed faster and more accurately thanks to a new method introduced to Polish medical practice by the Mother and Child Institute in Warsaw.

The method has been developed by a team led by Paweł Stankiewicz that obtained more than zl.4 million for their research and equipment from Poland’s National Center for Research and Development (NCBiR). More than 30 people worked on the project, among them scientists from the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Cracow and the Children’s Memorial Health Institute in Warsaw.

In another milestone project—coordinated by Leszek Kasprzyczak from the EMAG Institute of Innovative Technology in the southern city of Katowice—Polish researchers have developed the prototype of a mobile inspection robot designed for use in coal mines where there is a risk of explosions. The robot can be used to replace human rescuers in entering dangerous areas and taking measurements if a fire breaks out. “In coal mines, there are cases of endogenous fires, which means fires caused by spontaneous combustion of coal as a result of accumulation of heat from coal oxidation,” says Kasprzyczak. “It often happens that there is no open flame, but the coal is smoldering in a way invisible to the eye. Such fires are hard to detect and control, as a result of which there are dangerous levels of toxic carbon monoxide and of carbon dioxide, which may cause suffocation.”

When toxic gas has exceeds the safe level the whole area affected by the fire has to be closed and isolated from other parts of the mine. The process of putting out a fire can take up to six months. Such a long stoppage puts mines at risk of huge financial losses that run into millions of zlotys. After a fire, before a mine can resume production, measurements of toxic gas concentration need to be taken. So far, it has been the task of mine rescuers to take such measurements hundreds of meters underground. “It is easy to imagine just how dangerous such missions are,” says Kasprzyczak. “Even if the rescuers wear special masks to protect them, they are taking a huge risk, including high temperatures, narrow and low galleries, as well as potential explosions. It is far better to send in a robot capable of evaluating the area and measuring the concentration of dangerous gases. What’s more, the robot will be able to not only replace humans in such situations, but also do much more than the best-equipped human specialist. While people can’t venture far into the hazardous area, the robot is capable of making its way up to one kilometer into the excavation. It can work in temperatures of 60 degrees Celsius.”

Once the project moves beyond the prototype stage and the robot is ready, it will cost around zl.600,000, Kasprzyczak says. The project has been co-financed to the tune of zl.3.56 million by the National Center for Research and Development.
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