Starting Fire With Water – NASA Science

When firefighters want to extinguish a blaze, they often douse it with water. Astronauts on board the ISS, however, are experimenting with a form of water that does the opposite. Instead of stopping fire, this water helps start it.

“We call it ‘supercritical water,” says Mike Hicks of the Glenn Research Center in Ohio. “And it has some interesting properties.”

Water becomes supercritical when it compressed to a pressure of 217 atmospheres and heated above 373 degrees C. Above that so-called critical point, ordinary H2O transforms into something that is neither solid, liquid, nor gas. It’s more of a “liquid-like gas.”

“When supercritical water is mixed with organic material, a chemical reaction takes place—oxidation.” Says Hicks. “It’s a form of burning without flames.”

via Starting Fire With Water – NASA Science.

Mind. Blown.


Filed under space

3 responses to “Starting Fire With Water – NASA Science

  1. Mike

    So, NASA has nothing to do except determine that water at 3038 psi at 703 degrees F causes rust. Oh, created the new word supercritical water? Don’t think it’s new…


    • No, supercritical is not new. I remember supercritical oil 30 years ago. This is new as far as the application towards waste disposal. If you had read the article, you might have seen where the ISS is a unique platform to not only study supercritical water but also the precipitation of salts that cause that rust. As for NASA having nothing else to do, why don’t you click on the “Filed under space” link and see all the posts here having to do with space. I’ve been a little slack lately in putting posts up due to family concerns, but there is valid work going on, thank you very much.


  2. The whole point of science is to try new stuff … if you want don’t have a play around, have a curiosity, we might as well go back to living in caves and eating mammoth steak (though by what I hear of US temperatures at the moment, perhaps mammoth would thrive?). :-)