Student-designed device could soon be protecting homes from fires
Most of us can't afford homes with fire-extinguishing sprinklers built into the ceiling … and that's where FACE is designed to come in. It's a self-contained, heat-activated fire suppression device that's mounted in the user's home, wherever it's most likely to be needed.
Its name an acronym for Fire Activated Canister Extinguisher, FACE was invented by San Francisco high school student Arul Mathur. He tells us that he was inspired to create it after moving from New Jersey to California, where he discovered firsthand just how much of a threat fires pose to people's dwellings.
"I heard about the hundreds of thousands of people who evacuated their homes every year to flee from wildfires, but I never thought that I could be one of those people," he says. "Finally, in the summer of 2019, a wildfire threatened to force my family to evacuate our home. At that moment, it became personal. I knew that I needed to do something about it."
The resulting device takes the form of a wall-mounted metal canister with an air valve on top, an air pressure gauge on the side, and a sprinkler head on the bottom. It's filled with a mixture of water and an environmentally friendly fire retardant by the name of Cold Fire.
Users initially pressurize the canister by pumping it up through its valve, utilizing either a manual air pump or an electric compressor. They then periodically check the pressure on its gauge, topping it up to about 50 psi (3.4 bar) if necessary. Other than that, it pretty much just sits around until a fire occurs nearby.
When that happens, the heat from the flames causes a glycerine-filled bulb in the sprinkler head to burst. This allows the pressurized water/retardant mix to shoot out the bottom of the canister and deflect off the sprinkler itself, spraying 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 m) in all directions. The device doesn't have to be connected to the home's water supply or electrical system, plus it can be refilled after each discharge using a kit – and unlike a handheld fire extinguisher, it does its job even if no one is home to operate it.
Along with its use inside the home, Mathur has also suggested that multiple FACE devices could be placed at regular intervals along the fences of houses in wildfire-prone regions. "I reasoned that by owning self-activating fire suppression, individuals no longer had to be reliant on the fire department to save their homes," he explains. "Firefighters could focus on containing the fire, while we, as residents, could control the fate of our property."
Should you be interested, FACE is presently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. Assuming it reaches production, a pledge of US$99 will get you one. The planned retail price is $120, although the price per unit will be less if multiple devices are purchased.
It's demonstrated in the following video.