A new ceramic firefighting foam that can handle temperatures of more than 1000°C has been created by scientists in Russia.
The foam, based on inorganic silica nanoparticles, beats similar substances on its ability to extinguish fires, it’s stability to heat and its impact on the environment.
Alexander Vinogradov, deputy head of the International Laboratory of Advanced Materials and Technologies (SCAMT) said: “Our foam is based on silica nanoparticles, which create a polymer network when exposed to air. Such a network embraces and adheres to the burning object and momentarily cools it down. At the same time, the foam itself hardens. The inorganic origin of this polymer network allows it to resist temperatures above 1000°C, which ensures gigantic stability from the aggressive environment in the midst of a raging fire.”
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At the moment, large scale firefighting involves using pre-fluorinated substances that are massively toxic to organisms, often taking more that 200 years to biodegrade. The foam has been awarded full biodegradability and after putting fires out, it absorbs water, before softening and falling apart into bionic silica parts.
“Most existing foams are made of organic materials and quickly deteriorate when temperatures approach 300°C. In our case, the foam creates a hard frame that not only puts out the fire, but also protects the object from re-ignition. With ordinary foams, re-ignition occurs within seconds after flame is applied to the object again.” Vinogradov added.
The scientists have carried out a series of large scale experiments, even imitating an actual forest fire. A flame retardant belt was made from the foam and was shown to localise the forest fire and could also stay active during the whole fire season.