Flaming fuel on water creates ‘blue whirl’ that burns clean | Science News

Real Science. Real News.

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.

Say What?

Flaming fuel on water creates ‘blue whirl’ that burns clean

Method may have practical use in fuel spill cleanup

7:00am, August 18, 2016
blue whirls

BLUE WHIRL  A swirling flame called a blue whirl is produced in the lab by igniting fuel floating on top of water (left). The flame first transitions into a 60-centimeter-tall fire tornado (center) before settling down into a quietly spinning blue flame (right) just 6 centimeters in height.

View the video

Blue whirl
\Bloo werl\ n.

A swirling flame that appears in fuel floating on the surface of water and glows blue.

An unfortunate mix of electricity and bourbon has led to a new discovery. After lightning hit a Jim Beam warehouse in 2003, a nearby lake was set ablaze when the distilled spirit spilled into the water and ignited. Spiraling tornadoes of fire leapt from the surface. In a laboratory experiment inspired by the conflagration, a team of researchers produced a new, efficiently burning fire tornado, which they named a blue whirl.

To re-create the bourbon-fire conditions, the researchers, led by Elaine Oran of the University of Maryland in College Park, ignited liquid fuel floating on a bath of water. They surrounded the blaze with a cylindrical structure that funneled air into the flame to create a

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content