Battelle researchers have embarked on a project for the United States Department of Defense’s (DoD) environmental research programs to examine commercial, off-the-shelf, fluorine-free aqueous film forming foams (AFFFs) to determine whether they meet military specifications for fire suppression. The research is funded by the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP), under their initiatives in per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) research.
In addition, this ESTCP project, led by Battelle Principal Investigator Satya Chauhan, PhD, will determine if commonly available firefighting engineering technology such as compressed air foam or ultra-high pressure, and/or minor chemical modifications, will allow the foams to meet the required standards of extinguishment and burnback. Battelle is contacting developers of advanced, fluorine-free foams for fighting Class B (hydrocarbon) fires for performing bench- and full-scale testing on their products against a requirement known as MIL-PRF-24385F.
“Battelle would particularly like to collaborate with developers of novel fluorine-free firefighting foams that are at a technology readiness level (TRL) of at least three,” said Chauhan, adding that he hopes the program can obtain as many suitable samples for testing as is possible.
Battelle is focused on bringing science-based solutions to address the country’s growing PFAS concerns. The chemicals have been commonly used for decades in firefighting foams as well as water-repellent, stain resistant and non-stick products materials. Around America, PFAS has been found in groundwater, soil and other places. Much of Battelle’s efforts are focused on how to identify, characterize, capture and destroy these chemicals in an effort the restore affected sites. This new program is an upstream effort to provide safer firefighting foam alternatives that can still meet the military’s requirements.
Several of these foams are available but currently none meet the stringent specifications of the DoD. By combining both engineering and chemical solutions, it is expected that one or more of them could be modified to meet these standards, allowing the U.S. military to switch to a more environmentally friendly firefighting agent. Some branches of the U.S. military are already advocating for particular brands and formulations of environmentally friendly firefighting agents. By conducting this work, the project could eliminate doubt by evaluating the wide variety of foams against both the military requirements and each other. That way, the study can determine which foams best fit the DoD’s needs.
The research benefits would include significant operational and maintenance cost savings and a reduction in environmental risk. The expected TRL after completion of this project is 8/9, which will allow immediate implementation of the successful foams DoD wide, thus helping to meet the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by Congress in 2017 requiring that the military look into foam alternatives that do not contain PFAS chemicals. Additionally, this technology demonstration/validation will greatly help civil aviation reduce the environmental impact via use of fluorine-free AFFFs that meet or exceed the performance of currently used fire suppressants.
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