- Program Areas
- Installation Energy and Water
- Environmental Restoration
- Munitions Response
- Resource Conservation and Resiliency
- Weapons Systems and Platforms
Fluorine-Free Firefighting Foams as Drop-In Replacements for AFFF
Dr. John Payne | National Foam Inc
Current firefighting foams that meet the requirements of MIL-PRF-24385F for fire suppression must contain fluorocarbons. C6 fluorocarbons are currently considered more benign than legacy C8 fluorocarbons in their toxicology to humans and aquatic species but remain persistent in the environment. A fire-fighting foam that genuinely biodegrades in the natural environment would eliminate any future environmental concerns.
SERDP project WP-2738 has resulted in National Foam Inc. developing per and poly fluorinated alkyl substance (PFAS)-free foams based on hydrocarbon surfactants that control rapidly, extinguish and give good burnback times in MIL-PRF-24385F 28ft2 fire tests on heptane and gasoline in fresh and sea water but do not yet meet MIL-PRF-24385F performance standards. This project will investigate further the physical and chemical processes that underlie control and extinguishment, to deliver foam concentrates that meet the MIL-PRF-24385F standard, use existing equipment and are drop-in replacements for aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF).
The effect of foams and their components on resource depletion, aquatic toxicity and human health will be evaluated using life cycle analysis methods to minimize environmental impacts and ensure no future issues.
National Foam Inc. has developed and commercialised high performing PFAS-free foams for civil aviation, petrochemical and Fire & Rescue applications through a scientific approach of understanding the physical chemistry of fire-fighting foams:
- Fire performance -> foam properties -> surface chemistry -> foam formulation
Foam formulations currently in development by National Foam control rapidly, extinguish and exceed the burnback requirements of MIL-PRF-24385F 28ft2 tests on gasoline and heptane, but further improvement is required.
This development project will break down fire extinguishment into separate processes, to understand the foam properties needed for each part. The project will investigate further how foam properties and formulation components can deliver faster extinguishment time, robustness to lean and rich proportioning and improved performance in sea water.
A full life cycle analysis of candidate foam formulations will use the method already developed, described in International Standards Organisation 14040 and 14044. Aquatic toxicity tests will allow environmental risk assessments for different use scenarios of final foams. Human health effects will be derived from toxicity of individual foam components.
PFAS-free foams that genuinely meet the fire performance standards of AFFF will ensure the safety of Department of Defense personnel and assets without adverse environmental impacts. Drop-in replacements will not require costly equipment upgrades. Life cycle analysis and toxicity studies will ensure no future issues and will identify areas where further environmental improvements can be made.