Wildfire prevention through prophylactic treatment of high-risk landscapes using viscoelastic retardant fluids

Also see the article in Wired

Anthony C. Yu, Hector Lopez Hernandez, Andrew H. Kim, Lyndsay M. Stapleton, Ruben J. Brand, Eric T. Mellor, Cameron P. Bauer, Gregory D. McCurdy, Albert J. Wolff, Doreen Chan, Craig S. Criddle, Jesse D. Acosta, Eric A. Appel

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Sep 2019, 201907855; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1907855116

Significance

Despite strong fire prevention efforts, every year wildfires destroy millions of acres of forest. While fires are necessary for a healthy forest ecology, the vast majority are human-caused and occur in high-risk areas such as roadsides and utilities infrastructure. Yet, retardant-based treatments to prevent ignitions at the source are currently impossible with existing technologies, which are only suited for reactive fire prevention approaches. Here we develop a viscoelastic carrier fluid for existing fire retardants to enhance retention on common wildfire-prone vegetation through environmental exposure and weathering. These materials enable a prophylactic wildfire prevention strategy, where areas at high risk of wildfire can be treated and protected from ignitions throughout the peak fire season.

Abstract

Polyphosphate fire retardants are a critical tactical resource for fighting fires in the wildland and in the wildland–urban interface. Yet, application of these retardants is limited to emergency suppression strategies because current formulations cannot retain fire retardants on target vegetation for extended periods of time through environmental exposure and weathering. New retardant formulations with persistent retention to target vegetation throughout the peak fire season would enable methodical, prophylactic treatment strategies of landscapes at high risk of wildfires through prolonged prevention of ignition and continual impediment to active flaming fronts. Here we develop a sprayable, environmentally benign viscoelastic fluid comprising biopolymers and colloidal silica to enhance adherence and retention of polyphosphate retardants on common wildfire-prone vegetation. These viscoelastic fluids exhibit appropriate wetting and rheological responses to enable robust retardant adherence to vegetation following spray application. Further, laboratory and pilot-scale burn studies establish that these materials drastically reduce ignition probability before and after simulated weathering events. Overall, these studies demonstrate how these materials actualize opportunities to shift the approach of retardant-based wildfire management from reactive suppression to proactive prevention at the source of ignitions.

Source: Wildfire prevention through prophylactic treatment of high-risk landscapes using viscoelastic retardant fluids – PNAS

Mimicking the ultrastructure of wood with 3-D printing for green products

by Chalmers University of Technology
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have succeeded in 3-D printing with a wood-based ink in a way that mimics the unique “ultrastructure” of wood. Their research could revolutionise the manufacturing of green products. Through emulating the natural cellular architecture of wood, they now present the ability to create green products derived from trees, with unique properties—everything from clothes, packaging, and furniture to healthcare and personal care products.

The way in which wood grows is controlled by its genetic code, which gives it unique properties in terms of porosity, toughness and torsional strength. But wood has limitations when it comes to processing. Unlike metals and plastics, it cannot be melted and easily reshaped, and instead must be sawn, planed or curved. Processes which do involve conversion, to make products such as paper, card and textiles, destroy the underlying ultrastructure, or architecture of the wood cells. But the new technology now presented allows wood to be, in effect, grown into exactly the shape desired for the final product, through the medium of 3-D printing.

By previously converting wood pulp into a nanocellulose gel, researchers at Chalmers had already succeeded in creating a type of ink that could be 3-D printed. Now, they present a major progression—successfully interpreting and digitising wood’s genetic code, so that it can instruct a 3-D printer.

It means that now, the arrangement of the cellulose nanofibrils can be precisely controlled during the printing process, to actually replicate the desirable ultrastructure of wood. Being able to manage the orientation and shape means that they can capture those useful properties of natural wood.

“This is a breakthrough in manufacturing technology. It allows us to move beyond the limits of nature, to create new sustainable, green products. It means that those products which today are already forest-based can now be 3-D printed, in a much shorter time. And the metals and plastics currently used in 3-D printing can be replaced with a renewable, sustainable alternative,” says Professor Paul Gatenholm, who has led this research within the Wallenberg Wood Science Centre at Chalmers University of Technology.

A further advance on previous research is the addition of hemicellulose, a natural component of plant cells, to the nanocellulose gel. The hemicellulose acts as a glue, giving the cellulose sufficient strength to be useful, in a similar manner to the natural process of lignification, through which cell walls are built.

Source: Mimicking the ultrastructure of wood with 3-D printing for green products – Phys.org, 2019-06-27

Wood-based technology creates electricity from heat

A University of Maryland-led team of researchers has created a heat-to-electricity device that runs on ions and which could someday harness the body’s heat to provide energy.

A University of Maryland-led team of researchers has created a heat-to-electricity device that runs on ions and which could someday harness the body’s heat to provide energy.

Source: Wood-based technology creates electricity from heat – Phys.org, 2019-03-25

This startup wants your next T-shirt to be made from wood

BY ADELE PETERS
Spinnova has found a way to spin any cellulose–wood, potato peels, even old T-shirts–into new, strong fiber.

In a new pilot factory in Jyväskylä, Finland–a city surrounded by forests and known in part for its lumber and paper industries–a startup will soon begin to turn wood pulp into something new: a type of fabric that could eventually compete with cotton.

Making wood into fabric isn’t new, but older wood-based fabrics like rayon use harsh chemicals that can pollute water and poison workers. The new fabric, made by a startup called Spinnova, uses a mechanical process instead of chemicals; the only byproduct is evaporated water, which is reused in production. Unlike cotton, which uses massive amounts of water in areas often prone to droughts, it needs little water, no pesticides, and no farmland.

The new process uses FSC-certified wood pulp that’s ground into a gel-like material called microfibrillated cellulose, which is made of tiny fibers. The material flows through the startup’s patented machinery to create a network of fibers that are spun and dried into a fluffy, firm wool that can be knit or woven into fabric and then made into clothing, shoes, or other textiles.

Source: This startup wants your next T-shirt to be made from wood – Fast Company, 2018-08-01