Fire fighting could take on an entirely new character with the rediscovery of a principle first noticed more than 200 years ago: electricity can stop flames.
Scientists do not yet fully understand how electricity stops fire. "The process by which it does this is complex, the researchers say, and is actually not really well understood (there are a lot of different things happening at once, apparently). But critically, it seems the carbon particles (soot) generated during combustion are easily charged, and once charged they respond to electric fields in strange ways that affect the stability of the flame. Shake that stability hard enough, and the flame collapses."
If an electrical field can extinguish the flames, it offers an easily transportable method for extinguishing fires on jet fighters and submarines (and DARPA is backing research on the process). Building materials and their contents may be able to be saved from both the fire and from the water damage that often occurs from fire fighting. The system could also help reduce the use of fire retardant gasses such as Halon, which is a potent ozone-depletion causing gas.
Electrical fire suppression also has the potential to be a very fast-acting system, which could also be a benefit for locations with especially sensitive contents. The effect also seems to be generated from a manageable level of power, which suggests that, in a few years, backpack sized gear may be available to fire fighters as an alternative to the hoses and foam sprayers.
image: Georg Andreas Böckler via Wikimedia Commons
hat tip to: @JaymiHeimbuch
written by San Diego Solar, September 06, 2012
written by Marathon Energy, September 07, 2012