SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- Researchers of Stanford University have found a new gel-like fire retardent that is more affordable, effective and environment-friendly than traditional approaches to wildfire prevention, the university said in a newsletter.
The Stanford scientists developed the gel-like fluid material that contains only nontoxic starting materials widely used in food, drug, cosmetic and agricultural products, said Stanford Report, a newsletter delivering news about the university community via email.
The cellulose-based gel-like retardant fluids can be sprayed with standard agricultural tools or from aircraft to ignition-prone areas during peak fire seasons.
The material can protect treated areas against fires for months, and will eventually degrade slowly, the newsletter said.
The technology makes the fire preventive treatment stay effective on target vegetation, despite the fluids' possible exposures to rains, wind and other negative environment conditions, the newsletter said.
This approach forms a contrast to traditional commercial wildland fire retardant formulations that use ammonium phosphate or its derivatives as the active fire-retarding component.
The formulations cannot last long on vegetation and therefore can not be used to prevent wildfires, said the Stanford Report.
Eric Appel, the study's senior author and an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford, said the cost-effective treatment has "the potential to make wildland firefighting much more proactive, rather than reactive."
The researchers are now cooperating with the California Department of Transportation and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to test the material on high-risk roadside areas that are the origin of dozens of wildfires every year.
More than 3 billion U.S. dollars were spent on firefighting across the United States in 2018, the highest total ever, according to a report of the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center.