Houses could be saved from wildfires by wrapping them in huge heat reflective fire blankets

  • The blankets were developed by a researcher at Case Western University.
  • The professor modeled his technology after safety equipment used by US Forest Service firefighters in case of emergency
  • The blankets can remain effective for up to 10 minutes

A researcher from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio has come up with an experimental new way to protect houses and offices from wildfires.

Fumi Takahashi, a professor at Case Western who specializes in fire and combustion, has been testing a new blanket that can be wrapped around entire structures to prevent fire damage.

The blanket was inspired by a personal wrap that US Forest Service firefighters carry with them in case they end up trapped in a fiery environment with no way out.

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The experimental new blanket (pictured above) was developed by Fumi Takahashi at Case Western Reserve University.

The experimental new blanket (pictured above) was developed by Fumi Takahashi at Case Western Reserve University.

The blankets can be made from a number of different materials, but according to Takahashi’s research the best were either fiberglass or amorphous silica laminated with a heat-reflecting aluminium foil.

Initially, Takahashi limited his testing of these materials to small structures like birdhouses before scaling up to wooden sheds.

The blankets don’t hold up forever, but they can blunt the worst effects of fire damage for as much as ten minutes.

That could be long enough to save a number of structures during fast-moving wildfires.

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It can take several hours to properly wrap a larger structure making it useful mainly in circumstances when there is some impending risk of fire.

There have been a number of new developments in tools to combat fire damage.

The blanket can take several hours to properly install, making it unideal for emergency scenarios.

The blanket can take several hours to properly install, making it unideal for emergency scenarios.

The blanket can protect structures from heat damage for up to 10 minutes, which could be crucial during fast moving wildfires.

The blanket can protect structures from heat damage for up to 10 minutes, which could be crucial during fast moving wildfires. 

The technology was based on a much smaller blanket used by US Forest Service firefighters in case of emergencies.

The technology was based on a much smaller blanket used by US Forest Service firefighters in case of emergencies.

The most effect blanket materials are either fiberglass or amorphous silica laminated with a heat-reflecting aluminium foil.

The most effect blanket materials are either fiberglass or amorphous silica laminated with a heat-reflecting aluminium foil.

Earlier this year, researchers from Stanford created a fire-retardant gel that could be sprayed over at risk areas several months in advance to prevent the spread of wildfires.

‘The only way to fight wildfires currently is reactively,’ Eric Appel, a researcher at Stanford said of his motivation for developing the gel. 

‘We wait for them to start and then we go out and we use fire retardants in order to try and put them out,’ 

Annually, more than 10 million acres are burned in wildfires across the country, and containing them costs $2 billion, not counting property damages and injury.

It’s not just a problem in the US. 

In 2019, the UK has suffered more wildfires than any year in history, according to NewScientist.

This summer wildfires swept across large stretches of Madagascar and a number of countries in central Africa. 

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Wildfires along the Amazon in Brazil were big enough to be seen from space the summer.  

WHAT CAUSES WILDFIRES? 

 85% of wildfires in the US are caused by humans

Lightning is the next most common cause of wildfires

There were 58,083 US wildfires in 2018, down from 71,499 in 2017

California has more than 2 million homes exposed to wildfire risk, almost three times more than any other state

Texas has the highest number of wildfires per year, with 10,541 in 2018

California had the most amount of space burned by wildfire in 2018, with more than 1.8 million acres affected

 



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