The blue fire tornado is a kind of ‘fire whirl’ discovered by scientists, which is capable of burning fuel with less carbon emissions. One of its applications is that it can be used to clean up oil spills which endanger our marine life.
A ‘whirlwind’ generated by intense rising heat and turbulent wind conditions and comprises flame or ash is called a fire tornado or a fire whirl. Fire tornados take place during urban and wildland fires and are often destructive, threatening life, property and the surrounding area.
A blue fire tornado or blue whirl is a kind of fire tornado that can burn almost soot-free. “Blue whirl” can turn out to be the solution to cleaning up oil spills, as per researchers.
A researcher at the University of Maryland, Elaine Oran, explained:
“Blue whirls evolve from traditional yellow fire whirls. The yellow color is due to radiating soot particles, which form when there is not enough oxygen to burn the fuel completely.”
“Blue in the whirl indicates there is enough oxygen for complete combustion, which means less or no soot, and is therefore a cleaner burn.”
A new type of flame was discovered by the researchers at the University of Maryland during their research on the fire tornados. Their research involved the combustion and burning dynamics of fire whirls on water.
Michael Gollner, an assistant professor of fire protection engineering at the University of Maryland, told:
“Fire whirls are more efficient than other forms of combustion, because they produce drastically increased heating to the surface of fuels, allowing them to burn faster and more completely.”
The blue whirls were examined by the researchers on the surface of the water. According to Gollner, the blue whirls burn cleaner and also help pull in the fuel due to the flames’ circulation.
Owing to the swirling blue flame, researchers believed that they possibly will get hold of practical application for the fire tornado. The blue whirl generates less combustion emissions that as per scientists might be an answer to “the worldwide need to reduce emissions from both wanted and unwanted combustion”.
Another practical application for the fire tornado is that it may perhaps help in the cleaning up of oil spills. The existing oil cleanup method is to corral the oil which produces a thick layer of oil on the surface of water. This layer of oil is then set alight. The setback of this method is that it leads to the release of a substantial amount of smoke. Therefore, this technique has been labeled as inefficient and incomplete by researchers.
Tanker incidents resulted in the wastage of 6,000 tonnes of oil to the environment in 2016, which naturally entailed an efficient cleanup method. According to researchers, oil-spill remediation-by-combustion can be significantly improved by harnessing and controlling the blue whirl.
The scientists are looking forward to re-creation of the blue fire tornado on a large scale so that it can aid in the cleaning of oil spills endangering the marine life.