Successive frames showing transition between a laminar blue whirl and a yellow whirl taken from a high-speed video. Photo: University of Maryland
Fire tornados, or ‘fire whirls,’ pose a powerful and essentially uncontrollable threat to life, property, and the surrounding environment in large urban and wildland fires. But now, a team of researchers in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland (UMD) say their discovery of a type of fire tornado they call a ‘blue whirl’ could lead to beneficial new approaches in reduced carbon emissions and improved oil spill cleanup.
A new paper recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) describes this previously unobserved flame phenomenon, which burns nearly soot-free. The paper's authors are Huahua Xiao, assistant research scientist in the Department of Aerospace Engineering; Michael Gollner, assistant professor in the Department of Fire Protection Engineering; and Elaine Oran, Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering in the Department of Aerospace Engineering.
Recent media coverage of the blue whirl research is below:
- Popular Science, Gorgeous 'Blue Whirl' Flame Might Help Produce Cleaner Energy, August 5, 2016.
- LiveScience, Watch A Blue Fire Tornado Spin, August 5, 2016.
- New Atlas, New "blue whirl" fire tornados spin up a cleaner burn, August 7, 2016.
- Gizmodo, Scientists Discovered a New Type of Fire, August 8, 2016.
- Nature World News, This Soot-Free Blue Fire Could Help Produce Clean Energy, August 8, 2016.
- Mental Floss, Researchers Discover a New Type of Fire Called 'Blue Whirl', August 8, 2016.
- Business Insider, Scientists have discovered a new kind of fire, and it's beautiful, August 8, 2016.
- Discover Magazine Blogs, To Clean Up An Oil Spill, Light a Fire Tornado, August 8, 2016.
- Quartz, Scientists just discovered a new type of eco-friendly fire, August 8, 2016.
- The Engineer, ‘Blue whirl’ fires could help oil spill clean-up, August 9, 2016.
- Nerdist, Scientists Discover the Ecological "Blue Whirl" Fire Tornado, August 9, 2016.
- Science Alert, Scientists just discovered a new kind of fire, August 9, 2016.
- Christian Science Monitor, Scientists discover the 'blue whirl,' a beautiful new kind of fire, August 9, 2016.
- American Scientist, Hungry Little Beasts, November-December 2016
August 8, 2016