Researchers have come up with a new concept of fire extinguishing known as the Vacuum Extinguish Method. Will it be able to live up to the expectations of scientists?
FREMONT, CA: A research team of Mechanical Engineering Department at Toyohashi University of Technology has introduced a new concept of fire extinguisher, Vacuum Extinguish Method (VEM), that can be optimized for space-use.
VEM is based on an entirely reverse operation of a greatly used fire extinguisher called spraying extinguisher agents into the firing point. VEM sucks the flame and combustion product along with fire source, by vacuum into the vacuum chamber to eliminate firing matters from the space of interest. This reverse technique greatly suits special environments that are highly enclosed for suppressing or preventing the spread of dangerous combustion products like particulate matters, fume, toxic gas element across the completely enclosed cabin. This is extremely beneficial for space use, preferable in an intense vacuum environment.
Presently, fire extinguishers used in space stations or spacecrafts are mainly carbon dioxide spraying gas extinguishers, although the water mist system was partly considered as a substitute. However, carbon dioxide extinguisher is not the best choice for the space environment since the cabin has limited volume, and there is an increased concentration of carbon dioxide. Hence, it is vital to wear an oxygen mask prior to the execution of the device’s extinguisher process, which leads to a delay in action and allows the fire to grow.
VEM is a reverse operation to combat fire and is based on the suction of flammable products and the flame with vacuum, and allocating them into a vacuum chamber to be isolated. If the fire continues to the chamber, fire extinguisher techniques can be adopted when needed. If this technique becomes successful, the pre-process of fire fighting will be excluded to handle the time for taking proper action. Besides, the product will be efficaciously removed from the cabin to minimize damage to the filter. Though this technique sounds odd on the planet, it might be the most recommended for space use.
The test of the method was easy to implement and confirm, but it was arduous for systematic study to show its performance, like formulating the performance based on the mathematical model. Finally, the technique was confirmed, and the entire test device was successfully developed. An ejector system introduced the controlled vacuum, and all devices were turned on with sensors in the test to enhance reproducibility substantially. Intriguing flame suction images displayed the results and provided rich images on how the process should be altered.
VEM is expected to be an upcoming method in future space missions and that the concept would also be implemented for extinguishing severe and unmanageable fires. The primary role of a scientist is to propose this latest idea scientifically.