Flaming ‘Blue Whirl’ Could Be Used In Fuel Spill Cleanup

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science News: An unfortunate mix of electricity and bourbon has led to a new discovery. After lightning hit a Jim Beam warehouse in 2003, a nearby lake was set ablaze when the distilled spirit spilled into the water and ignited. Spiraling tornadoes of fire leapt from the surface. In a laboratory experiment inspired by the conflagration, a team of researchers produced a new, efficiently burning fire tornado, which they named a blue whirl. To re-create the bourbon-fire conditions, the researchers, led by Elaine Oran of the University of Maryland in College Park, ignited liquid fuel floating on a bath of water. They surrounded the blaze with a cylindrical structure that funneled air into the flame to create a vortex with a height of about 60 centimeters. Eventually, the chaotic fire whirl calmed into a blue, cone-shaped flame just a few centimeters tall, the scientists report online August 4 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The soot-free blur whirls could be a way of burning off oil spills on water without adding much pollution to the air, the researchers say, if they can find a way to control them in the wild. You can view the clean-burning ‘blue whirl’ here.


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