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A chemical-free fire extinguisher to put out fires in space

Science

Researchers in Japan have developed a fire extinguisher that sucks in flames rather than spaying chemicals

Spotted: Japanese researchers have designed a fire extinguisher for space. Instead of spraying chemicals to put out a fire, the extinguisher sucks up the flames.

The method, called Vacuum Extinguish Method (VEM), works exactly the opposite as existing fire extinguishers do. These spray CO2 to put out flames. While that method works in space, it is not efficient, according to the researchers. They increase the level of CO2 in the spaceship, so astronauts lose precious seconds putting on oxygen masks. Combustible products float in the spaceship after the fire is out. That requires a time-intensive cleaning process.

The VEM solves those issues by sucking the flames – and the source of the fire – into a vacuum chamber. The team says the VEM would work well in space ships and other enclosed environments, like submarines. It could also be used in operating rooms, where chemical spray could damage equipment. The device has been tested, the team says, but space agencies have not yet agreed to use it.

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