COLUMBUS, Ohio—Scientists at Battelle have filed a patent application for a device that shoots out rings of gas—an invention that could aid firefighters in suppressing smoke as well as delivering a targeted dose of pesticides.
While vortex guns have been around for years as toys, practical applications have been hard to find. Now, Battelle researcher Lynn Faulkner and his colleagues have developed a highly targeted way to deliver pesticides, suppress smoke or serve as a nonlethal method of riot control.
“Firefighters won’t go into a building unless they can see their way,” Faulkner said. “So if they could fire a vortex ring of ionized air into a space—down a hallway or up some stairs—and clear smoke rapidly, it would really help.”
He also said it could disperse pests. “If I have a wasp nest high up near the eave of my house I have to climb up there and spray,” said Faulkner. “But with a vortex gun, I may be able to shoot a vortex of air containing the pesticide and deliver it right on target.”
The gun forms vortex rings by forcing air or some other gas at high velocity down the gun’s cylinder. The ring forms when the friction of the cylinder wall causes a thin layer of the gas to roll forward on itself like a donut. Imagine a tornado formed into a donut shape. The ring revolves on itself while traveling out the cylinder and it can maintain that stability for long distances. Depending on the size of the gun, Battelle data confirms that a ring vortex can exit a generator at 90 miles per hour and maintain a speed of at least 60 mph for more than 50 yards.
Vortex rings are extremely stable even in a cross wind. Scientists believe the dynamics of the propagating ring cause it to turn into the cross wind and resist being blown away or broken up, Faulkner said.
Like the eye of a hurricane, the interior of the ring remains calm as the vortex ring moves forward. That’s why a pesticide might be precisely delivered to a targeted location. Also, tear gas or pepper gas could be delivered to a specific target rather than the alternative of the broad coverage that occurs now and without the canister that could injure an individual.
As the world’s largest independent research and development organization, Battelle provides innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing needs through its four global businesses: Laboratory Management; National Security; Health and Life Sciences; and Energy, Environment and Material Sciences. It advances scientific discovery and application by conducting $6.5 billion in global R&D annually through contract research, laboratory management and technology commercialization. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Battelle oversees 22,000 employees in more than 130 locations worldwide, including seven national laboratories which Battelle manages or co-manages for the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a nuclear energy lab in the United Kingdom.
Battelle also is one of the nation’s leading charitable trusts focusing on societal and economic impact and actively supporting and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
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