Space

Space fire extinguisher sucks instead of blows

Space fire extinguisher sucks ...
The VEM extinguisher is designed for use on spacecraft and other special environments
The VEM extinguisher is designed for use on spacecraft and other special environments
View 2 Images
(a) Flame appearance with/without suction operation. (b) time-sequential Schlieren images during the suction extinguish process
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(a) Flame appearance with/without suction operation. (b) time-sequential Schlieren images during the suction extinguish process
The VEM extinguisher is designed for use on spacecraft and other special environments
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The VEM extinguisher is designed for use on spacecraft and other special environments

The Department of Mechanical Engineering at Toyohashi University of Technology has developed an inside-out fire extinguisher for use inside spacecraft. Instead of spraying out extinguishing agents at a fire, the Vacuum Extinguish Method (VEM) sucks the flames and burning materials into a vacuum chamber, where they can be safely suffocated or extinguished.

Fire is one of the most frightening emergencies that can happen aboard a manned spacecraft, submarine, or other enclosed, special environments. Not only can one be about as deadly as a fire can get, but combating it is extremely difficult, not only because of the heat and smoke given off, but because the extinguishing agents can be almost as dangerous in an enclosed space.

This is the reason why firefighting teams aboard submarines and the International Space Station need to don oxygen masks before dealing with the fire. Even if the agent used is as innocuous as carbon dioxide, the crew can still suffocate without breathing apparatus. Even water in a weightless environment can be hazardous.

(a) Flame appearance with/without suction operation. (b) time-sequential Schlieren images during the suction extinguish process
(a) Flame appearance with/without suction operation. (b) time-sequential Schlieren images during the suction extinguish process

Developed in collaboration with Hokkaido and Shinshu Universities, VEM addresses the problem of extinguishing agents by reversing how the extinguisher works. Not only does it reduce breathing hazards, it also speeds up response times by eliminating the need to put on oxygen masks.

VEM works by means of a suction system to pull the flame or combustion materials into a vacuum chamber. There the flame would either go out for lack of air or extinguishing agents could be introduced without contaminating the living environment.

According to research leader Yuji Nakamura, VEM is simple in concept and a test version has already been developed that uses a controlled vacuum introduced under strict monitoring for evaluation purposes. The system has yet to be adopted by any space agencies, but the team sees it has having a variety of applications, including fighting metal powder fires or ones in operating theaters or clean rooms where the firefighting can cause as much damage as the fire.

The research was published in Fire Technology.

Source: Toyohashi University of Technology

3 comments
Colt12
That sounds like a winner and lifesaver.
Expanded Viewpoint
Well DUH!!! You don't need any kind of fancy equipment to fight a fire in a space capsule, just some vacuum cleaner type hoses mounted in strategic locations and have them on a reel, then if there is a fire, you just pull out the hose and open a ball type valve near the end of the hose and the negative pressure (vacuum) outside of the space craft will suck it out very quickly!! But I had no idea that the engineering levels of modern day space craft were so woefully inadequate and substandard, that a fire would ever occur in one! What, like they have piles of flammable materials all over the place that are going to go into spontaneous combustion when nobody is looking?? If they know what the power requirements are for each piece of equipment on board, they can properly calculate the size of wire needed for each circuit and put in the correct size circuit breaker. Anyone who has studied the building codes book can see that building codes for wiring were developed for a reason out of hard data. That book is written in BLOOD!! And they can use Teflon insulation on the wires instead of PVC or anything similar which can burn. Good fire PREVENTION is a thousand times better and more sensible than fire suppression any day of the week. Just don't give a fire a chance to start, and none will. Randy
Paravectorno Extactini
This is the sort of pyromaniac wonderment that is alternate to the EM and cold gas snuffing of fires and we shall want greatly. Fire was still used in highway Pakistan this weekend to destroy 50 tons plus of some opium; soon enough though, any spoilsport freelance in drug trade will need to be brought to the service of the locals and turn a profit in better aquifers, treatment fens, bug lures, loam, etc. It's good to have choices in birthday cakes; going to LED displays or self-luminescent frosting paints doesn't have the same mechanic.