Fighting fire with fine water mist

This portable fire extinguisher is lightweight, inexpensive, non-toxic, recyclable, uses water more efficiently and is less damaging to structures and electronics than a typical sprinkler system. 

“From the outset Mines has been a leader in water mist technology, the basis of this chemical-free fire suppression system,” explained Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the university’s Center for Space Resources.  He directed its initial development in collaboration with NASA. In early 2012 the extinguisher passed the System Requirements Review at Johnson Space Center.

From now on, all design and testing work are aimed at delivering a new fire suppression system for the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2013. Mines researchers will help with unit design and will conduct testing on campus, as well as on NASA’s zero-gravity airplane, to determine the extinguisher’s optimum configuration  to put out an open fire inside an ISS module.

They are working with ADA Technologies, Inc. on product development and with Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering under NASA’s bioastronautics contract  to build 13 units that will replace the existing CO₂ extinguishers on the ISS. The new units must fit in the same space as the old ones.

Once the installation on the ISS is complete, the technology can move from spacecraft to commercial applications for a broader market. Possibilities include civil aircraft, passenger ships, military vehicles, subway systems and tunnels, museums and historical sites, health care facilities and computer rooms.

 

This article appears in the 2012-13 issue of Energy and the Earth magazine.