Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge: 1998 Small Business Award
PYROCOOL Technologies, Inc.
Technology for the Third Millennium: The Development and Commercial Introduction of an Environmentally Responsible Fire Extinguishment and Cooling Agent
Innovation and Benefits: PYROCOOL Technologies developed PYROCOOL F.E.F., a fire extinguishing foam that is nontoxic and highly biodegradable. PYROCOOL F.E.F. replaces ozone-depleting gases and aqueous foams that release toxic and persistent chemicals to the environment during use. PYROCOOL F.E.F. is effective at approximately one-tenth the concentration of conventional fire extinguishing chemicals.
Summary of Technology: Advances in chemical technology have greatly benefited firefighting in this century. From the limitation of having only local water supplies at their disposal, firefighters have been presented over the years with a wide variety of chemical agents, as additives or alternatives to water, to assist them. These advances in chemical extinguishment agents, however, have themselves created, in actual use, potential long-term environmental and health problems that tend to outweigh their firefighting benefits. PYROCOOL Technologies, Inc. developed PYROCOOL F.E.F. (Fire Extinguishing Foam) as an alternative formulation of highly biodegradable surfactants designed for use in very small quantities as a universal fire extinguishment and cooling agent.
Halon gases, hailed as a tremendous advance when introduced, have since proven to be particularly destructive to the ozone layer, having an ozone depletion potential (ODP) value of 10–16 times that of common refrigerants. Aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1960s to combat pooled-surface, volatile, hydrocarbon fires release both toxic hydrofluoric acid and fluorocarbons when used. The fluorosurfactant compounds that make these agents so effective against certain types of fires render them resistant to microbial degradation, often leading to contamination of groundwater supplies and failure of wastewater treatment systems.
In 1993, PYROCOOL Technologies initiated a project to create a fire extinguishment and cooling agent that would be effective in extinguishing fires and that would greatly reduce the potential long-term environmental and health problems associated with traditional products. To achieve this objective, PYROCOOL Technologies first determined that the product (when finally developed) would contain no glycol ethers or fluorosurfactants. In addition, it decided that the ultimate formulation must be an effective fire extinguishment and cooling agent at very low mixing ratios. PYROCOOL F.E.F. is a formulation of highly biodegradable nonionic surfactants, anionic surfactants, and amphoteric surfactants with a mixing ratio (with water) of 0.4 percent. In initial fire tests at the world’s largest fire-testing facility in the Netherlands, PYROCOOL F.E.F. was demonstrated to be effective against a broad range of combustibles.
Since its development in 1993, PYROCOOL F.E.F. has been employed successfully against numerous fires both in America and abroad. PYROCOOL F.E.F. carries the distinction of extinguishing the last large oil tanker fire at sea (a fire estimated by Lloyd's of London to require 10 days to extinguish) on board the Nassia tanker in the Bosphorous Straits in just 12.5 minutes, saving 80 percent of the ship’s cargo and preventing 160 million pounds of crude oil from spilling into the sea.
As demonstrated by the PYROCOOL F.E.F. technology, selective employment of rapidly biodegradable substances dramatically enhances the effectiveness of simple water, while eliminating the environmental and toxic impact of other traditional fire extinguishment agents. Because PYROCOOL F.E.F. is mixed with water at only 0.4 percent, an 87–93 percent reduction in product use is realized compared to conventional extinguishment agents typically used at 3–6 percent. Fire affects all elements of industry and society, and no one is immune from its dangers. PYROCOOL F.E.F. provides an innovative, highly effective, and green alternative for firefighters.