New Delhi: Ever seen a tornado? Yes, we're talking about the violent, whirling column of air that has destroyed many homes whenever it has hit parts of the world.
Now, scientists have discovered a new fire, which shares the same 'whirling' characteristic of a tornado, but that's where the similarities end.
Known as the 'blue whirl' flame (because it lacks the yellow colour of traditional flames), instead of being destructive, could lead to cleaner ways of burning fuel, as well as helping in the clean-up of oil spills.
The secret to this useful property of the flame, in fact, lies in its colour. The distinct yellow hue in a flame comes from radiating soot particles, which shows that there's not enough oxygen to burn all of the available fuel. Blue, however, indicates that the fuel is being burned completely, which reflects lower carbon emissions.
Researchers at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering stumbled upon the blue flame by accident, while creating fire whirls in the lab.
A simulated oil spill was thereby created within the lab, the researchers positioned a pair of quartz half-cylinders over the top to pull up cold air and create a fire whirl. Unexpectedly, that whirl then evolved into a quiet, pure blue flame.
Although, the flame could only be maintained for a duration of 8 minutes by pumping more fuel under it, researchers say that it can probably be extended.
But the researchers admit that there's still a lot they don't understand about the blue flame they've created, including exactly why it burns the way it does.
"A fire tornado has long been seen as this incredibly scary, destructive thing. But, like electricity, can you harness it for good? If we can understand it, then maybe we can control and use it," said fire protection engineer, Michael Gollner, from the University of Maryland, reported Sciencealert.com.
Now that we know about the blue whirl, getting it outside the lab – and scaling it up – will be the next challenge for the scientists.
The findings have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Check out the video below!
(Video courtesy: GeoBeats News)