Research

Putting Out Wildfires Using Explosives

Wildfires damage millions of acres of land per year in the United States alone. Using explosives to put out an uncontrolled wildfire sounds a bit crazy, but it’s actually not that far-fetched. The animations above are taken from high-speed footage of a propane fire interacting with a blast wave. The first animation shows what the human eye would see, and the second is a shadowgraph video, a technique which highlights differences in density and makes the flame’s convection and the blast wave itself visible. At close range, the shock wave from the explosion and the high-speed gas behind it push the flames away from their fuel source, stopping combustion almost immediately. For a flame farther away from the blast, the shock wave introduces turbulent disturbances that can destabilize the flame. Much work remains to be done before the technique could be scaled from the laboratory to the field, but it is an exciting concept. You can read more about the work here. (Research credit: G. Doig/UNSW Australia; original videos: here and here; submitted by @CraigOverend)

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