The Blue Whirl: Clark School Research in the News

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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:

Published August 8, 2016