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New Torch Uses Unlikely Element to Create Fire

"...the torch never gets hot. "

Researchers with the SafeFlame project created a torch that is fueled by water. (Image source: SafeFlameProject.eu)

Water is the first thing many people would turn to squelch a fire. So it might come as a surprise that researchers are developing a torch that is actually fueling its flame with water.

SafeFlame, a European research project, generates fire from H2O, splitting the element into hydrogen and oxygen gas, setting the now combustible materials alight with electricity.

safeflame Researchers with the SafeFlame project created a torch that is fueled by water. (Image source: SafeFlame Project )

Technologist Andrew Ellis described the SafeTorch as "an electrolyzer system," according to Euro News. He noted that the research team has figured out methods to make the technology more affordable so it could be used in various industries on a more widespread scale.

"We’ve also been doing lots of research on catalysts, trying to reduce the amount of platinum and looking into much cheaper materials that can be used in the cells. And this research has led to big reduction in the cost of electrolyzer systems," Ellis told Euro News.

Here's how the SafeTorch could be safer than more traditional torches fueled by acetylene or propane, as stated on the project website:

  1. The oxygen and hydrogen are generated separately, and their mixture is controlled to deliver a precise stoichiometric, oxidising or reducing flame – an innovation offering unique benefits in brazing applications.
  2. The length of the flame and the heat flux imparted to the work piece can be adjusted instantaneously by adjusting the power input to the electrolyser stack – this provides a more flexible and user friendly solution.
  3. The SafeFlame approach eliminates the need for any stored gases, removing explosion hazards and improving process portability.

Check out how it works:

In addition to being less hazardous in terms of causing an accidental fire, SafeFlame produces a softer glow, which is easier on handler's eyes, and leaves only water as a burnoff product.

“One of the main benefits of this torch, this system, is that the torch always remains cold because the flame, as it’s being produced, burns on the outside of the torch," welding consultant Rory Olney told Euro News. "So it’s cold to touch, and as I’m using it, the torch never gets hot. And when you turn the flame off at the [end] of operation, the torch will also remain cold afterwards, so you can put it down anywhere you want.”

The SafeFlame prototype currently is being tested by welders and could someday come to the commercial market.

(H/T: Kinja)

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