The objective of this project is to demonstrate and validate the performance of a fluorine-free, 100% bio-based fire suppression hydrogel for Class A and B fires over current fluorine-based aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) products. Specifically, it will be tested for fire suppression performance and environmental toxicity against Military Specification (MILSPEC) MIL-PRF24385F(2), Fire Extinguishing Agent, AFFF Liquid Concentrate, for Fresh and Sea Water as well as National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 18A standards and requirements. The project will also include a baseline engineering design and life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) to retrofit existing AFFF-based fire suppression systems and equipment at DoD installations to support the hydrogel.
The hydrogel is a fluorine-free fire suppression material that is comprised of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certified food-grade ingredients and has been certified 100% bio-based by both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Underwriters Laboratory Environment (ULE). Its bio-based nature eliminates many of the current concerns of surrounding fluorine-based surfactant foams for fire suppression – specifically, the current regulatory concern of per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS). The material is applied in water of any pH level, with concentrations comparable to AFFF (2 to 5% by volume), to form a hydrogel that seals flammable liquids from oxygen sources and, unlike foam, can stick to vertical and horizontal surfaces allowing firefighters to generate a safe path of egress. Using the hydrogel, firefighters should be able to knock-down fires faster than when using water alone, while reducing water usage. In its dry form, the hydrogel has an advertised shelf life of 25 years.
A pilot rapid response dispensing system will be built for the demonstration along with a baseline system with minimum retrofit requirements, which will be used to estimate the cost to retrofit existing DoD AFFF fire suppression systems. The hydrogel’s fire suppression capabilities will be tested on fuels currently in use by the Department of Defense (DoD) and commercial facilities with a focus on JP-8, Jet A, and gasoline. These tests will validate the hydrogel's fire suppressant capabilities and benign environmental and toxicity properties against the MILSPEC for incumbent 3% AFFF products. The demonstrations will be coordinated in collaboration with the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG) and take place at one of three possible TXARNG military facilities (Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) Armed Forces Reserve Center (AFRC) in Austin, TX, Grand Prairie Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF) in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, or Ellington Field in Houston, TX). These tests will also characterize the costs to operate, maintain, and restock the hydrogel in order to inform the LCCA analysis.
The hydrogel does not contain surfactants that are detrimental to plant and aquatic life or contain PFAS, and it does not contain super absorbent polymers. The hydrogel could reduce the time and cost for cleaning up equipment and the environment after a fire-related incident. If successfully demonstrated and validated, it may have a lower economic cost to DoD as well as no environmental liabilities or concerns.