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Friday, 26 November, 1999, 09:54 GMT
Lighting a laser lifeline
Aerial rig Rigs have miles of gangways and corridors

A Scottish company has designed a laser lighting system to mark emergency escape routes in the event of fires on offshore oil and gas installations.

Lifor Limited has developed TrailLight - a laser-excited, fibre-optic cable which gives off a green light, which can be seen in dense smoke, is not powered by electricity and works underwater.

The fibre-optic cables are run from a battery pack which can illuminate up to 130 metres of cable.

Decorative purposes

Managing director David Stevenson said: "TrailLight is installed at floor level and provides an escape route for people trying to find their way to life rafts in the event of an emergency on an offshore oil and gas platform."

David Stephenson David Stephenson with the fibre-optic cable
Companies have been using fibre-optic cables for decorative purposes for many years but finding suitable high-intensity light sources to illuminate the cable has proved difficult.

Previously, metal halide lamps were used but they only lit a cable for up to 20 metres. They also took five minutes to reach full brightness, were bulky and had a short life-span.

Optoelectronics (also called electro-optics, optronics and photonics) is the science of joining optics and electronics.

Diver return paths

Chris Gracie, chief executive of the Scottish Optoelectronics Association which promotes laser companies, said: "Aside from its obvious use on offshore oil and gas platforms, TrailLight can be used for a variety of purposes ranging from marking emergency escape routes on ships and in public buildings to marking diver return paths subsea."

Haddington-based Lifor is one of more than 60 companies involved in Scotland's 500m lasers and optoelectronics industry.

Developed in conjunction with laser specialists from St Andrews University, TrailLight is currently undergoing extensive reliability testing.

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28 Oct 99 |  Scotland
Fears raised over platform safety

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