Innovative Nano-Encapsulated Ionic Liquid Based Surfactants for Fluorine-Free Fire Extinguishing Foams

Jaspreet Dhau | Molekule Inc



This project will explore an innovative concept of using metal carbonate nano-encapsulated ionic liquid (NEIL) surfactant formulations for use in fire-suppression operations. The research team will develop a sustainable ‘fluorine-free’ fire-fighting formulation that meets current environmental requirements and have equivalent or better performance to fluorinated Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF). Efforts to develop alternatives for fluorosurfactants have failed because focus has been on developing AFFF mimics. 

This project suggests an alternative out-of-the-box pathway to extinguish large fires, which is not an AFFF mimic. The research team aims to develop a new generation of fire-fighting foam containing a mixture of metal carbonate NEIL and a long chain surface active ionic liquid (IL) as surfactants. The formulation will provide physical and chemical barriers for effective fire extinguishment without relying majorly on the film formation characteristics. This project is directly related to the current state-of-the-art technologies that will help the realization of an eco-friendly, effective, and sustainable fluorine-free aqueous film forming foam. The objective of this project is to demonstrate proof-of-concept of sustainable non-toxic IL formulations effective in large fire suppression.

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Technical Approach

The approach is based on providing an alternative pathway to fire extinguishment by using a nextgeneration AFFF formulation containing metal carbonate NEILs and a long chain surface active ILs as surfactants. The formulation will provide various physical and chemical barriers to fire suppression, in addition to favorable thermodynamic/kinetic conditions to generate cooling characteristics necessary for fire extinguishment that mimics AFFF firefighting performance. The formulation will provide aqueous film forming foam that extinguishes fires by:

  1. fire heat absorption and undergoing an endothermic reaction (MgCO3→MgO + CO2, ΔH° 118 kJ/mol),
  2. generation of a CO2 blanket that smothers the fire via oxygen deprivation,
  3. creation of a sealing barrier to diffuse flammable vapors,
  4. furnishing a kinetic barrier and a less energetic pathway to IL vaporization,
  5. increase in foam stability by delaying the coalescence of bubbles, and
  6. exploitation of the IL self-healing properties. The formulation has the potential to exceed the performance of current AFFFs as it provides additional, unique and effective pathways to extinguish large fires.

The present endeavor will enable materials processing level understanding on the feasibility to use metal carbonate NEIL formulation as surfactants for use in fire extinguishment.

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AFFF is the most effective fire-suppressant as it brings rapid control and extinguishment of flammable liquid fires. The AFFF formulation has perfluoroalkyl sulfonates (PFAS) which have a high enthalpy of vaporization and degradation, and a unique film forming capability that makes them ideal fire suppressant candidates. However, they poses serious environmental concerns due to their toxic and persistent nature. A variety of fluorine-free (FF) fire-fighting foam formulations have been developed to replace the AFFF formulation. However, none match the AFFF fire-fighting performance. The suggested novel and innovative concept provides an alternative pathway to extinguish large fires involving the use of metal carbonate NEIL and a long chain surface active ILs as surfactants. The formulation will provide various physical and chemical barriers to fire suppression to achieve an equivalent or better AFFF firefighting performance. Successful demonstration of the concept will allow transition to further development and potential transition through partnership with Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to demonstrate applicability on flammable liquid such as JP-8 jet fuel.

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Points of Contact

Principal Investigator

Jaspreet Dhau

Molekule Inc

Phone: 813-451-5081