This Fabric Could Have Saved The Twin Towers


US researchers have developed an additive for fuels that greatly reduces fog in a crash. So there is no conflagration and explosion as a result of accidents or terrorist attacks.

As the planes crashed into the two skyscrapers, their kerosene turned into a mist that spread rapidly. It lits itself, hundreds of windows splintered. The passing air fanned the fire further, tearing apart the concrete covers between floors, depriving the steel girders of their insulation. Without this fog, which released a large part of the energy in the fuel quickly, the Twin Towers would have been heavily damaged. But they would have withstood September 11, 2001, terrorist attack and would not have collapsed.

Since then, chemists and engineers have been looking for more durable construction materials. But what about the buildings and vehicles that are already built? For them remains so far only a piece of very elaborate equipment with a myriad of impact detectors and fire protection. Much simpler and more efficient would be to add small amounts of fuel to the fuel itself to prevent fogging in a crash – minimizing the risk of a conflagration or explosion as a result of an accident or impact. Of course, such an additive should not affect the function of tanks, pipelines, and engines. Also in this direction have chemists since 9/11 intensively researched. But only now has a breakthrough been achieved.

The team around Julia Kornfield of the California Institute of Technology has developed polymers that can achieve the desired effect: The formation of mists is significantly reduced in these “megasupramolecules”, and when the fuel ignites, the flame goes out by itself. So far, other researchers have been trying on “ultralong” polymers. They have one serious drawback: defying their name, they break up into smaller molecules as they flow over long distances through pipelines or pumps. After only 80 kilometers they have lost most of their effectiveness. In addition, they can damage engines and engines. These problems do not have a new alternative. It can even boast additional benefits: because its hydrocarbon skeleton is similar to that of fuels, The polymers remain soluble even at very low temperatures (until the freezing point of kerosene, which is depending on the variety at minus 40 to 60 degrees). They can be filtered and dehydrated along with the fuel in a refiner. As an unexpected bonus, they also reduce the soot formation of diesel.

The researchers presented their findings on Tuesday at the spring conference of the American Chemical Society, the largest scientific community in the world. They founded a start-up to test and market their development with oil companies. Cooperation with the US Army is already running.