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Validation of Fluorine-Free Fire Suppression Alternatives (FF_FSA) against Military Specifications
Dr. Satya Chauhan | Battelle Memorial Institute
The objective of this project is to provide comparative and unbiased demonstration and validation of mature Fluorine-Free Fire Suppression Alternatives (FF_FSA) against military specifications (MIL-SPEC), specifically MIL-PRF-24385F, as amended, to permit transition to field use as a firefighting agent. Most developmental FF_FSA fall short of the required standards of extinguishment and burnback times. Chemical modification or application of these formulations through commonly available fire-fighting engineering technology, such as compressed air foam (CAF) or ultra-high pressure (UHP) systems, however, may advance their Technology Readiness Level (TRL) towards meeting the MIL-SPEC criteria.
The search for fluorine-free replacements for commercial Aqueous Film Forming Foams (AFFF) spans from laboratory development of novel formulations to commercial off the shelf (COTS) products. To date, however, none of these products have been able to meet the very stringent MIL-PRF-24385F specifications, most notably falling short in either the extinguishment time (30 seconds) and/or burnback time (360 seconds) requirements. Solutions to this problem are likely to result from innovative chemical formulations and modifications, and/or use of the solutions through firefighting engineering technologies that maximizes their fire-fighting effectiveness. It is known that extinguishment and burnback times can be altered by affecting the quality of the foam produced; for example, by adjusting the amount of air injection, pressure, and flow rates, the spreadability and longevity of the foam can be improved to extinguish a fire within specifications that meet MIL-PRF-24385F requirements. Under a current Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) award (herein referred to as ESTCP-1), Battelle is leveraging the CAF and UHP systems unique capabilities to enhance foam formation in order to evaluate and validate various FF_FSA formulations. Battelle has a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, Airbase Technologies Branch (AFCEC/CXAE) as a stakeholder and end-user. This relationship puts performance testing directly in the hands of DoD firefighters in a military relevant environment. To extend the ongoing evaluation and validation of COTS products in ESTCP-1, we propose a supplemental rapid and independent validation program of mature, recently developed, formulations (ESTCP-2) that show promise towards meeting MIL-F-28385F requirements. Newly identified commercial FF_FSA products and those developed from parallel SERDP awards, for example, will undergo initial qualification, and down-selected candidate technologies will be dovetailed into the ESTCP-1 program for critical extinguishment and burnback times; thereby improving the efficiency of the test and evaluation timeline.
Validating the toxicity and demonstrating the efficacy of a viable FF_FSA that meets or exceeds current AFFF performance requirements without the use of fluorosurfactants serves two primary purposes: dramatically reducing the environmental impact of fire suppression training and operations and maintaining the safety of personnel at crash sites or around liquid pool fires. A preliminary economic analysis indicates that FF_FSRA on average cost approximately 10 to 20% less than equivalent MIL-PRF-24385F grade fluorine-based concentrates, suggesting a potential savings in foam purchase costs alone. The technical program provides rapid validation for Strategic Environment Research and Development Program (SERDP)-developed FF_FSA formulations by providing an expedited transition in TRL to ultimately facilitate implementation of the successful FF_FSA to a commercial production and potential for DoD wide acquisition. The overall program works towards meeting the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by Congress in 2017 that requires the military look into fire-fighting alternatives that do not contain Perfluorooctanesulfonic/Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOS/PFOA). The project will also monitor and consider any additional requirements that are introduced in future NDAAs.