The Blue Whirl

Researchers studying the use of fire whirls to burn off oil spills have discovered a new type of fire whirl – the blue whirl. Their results are currently reported in a pre-print paper on arXiv and await peer-review. In their experiment, the scientists ignited a puddle of fuel floating atop water. Compared to a typical flame, they observed that a tightly-spinning fire whirl burns hotter and produces less soot by burning more of the fuel. To the researchers’ surprise, their lab-scale yellow fire whirl evolved into a compact, bright blue whirl. The blue whirl has a laminar flame and makes little to no noise. Its bright blue color indicates even more efficient combustion than the yellow fire whirl. The lack of yellow color means the whirl is burning without producing any soot, a by-product of incomplete combustion. The authors hope a better understanding of blue whirls will lead to better methods for responding to oil spills. (Image credit: H. Xiao et al.)

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