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The US Department of Defense is funding the development of an eco-friendly firefighting material.

Virginia Tech researchers have been awarded $1.2 million to develop an electronic molecular toolbox that uses machine learning and analytical techniques to support the development of environmentally friendly, firefighting foam.

The funding has been granted by the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, the environmental science and technology program of the Department of Defense.

The initiative for the project came from legislation connected to the banning of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), that can cause adverse health reactions in humans and wildlife.

These chemicals are currently found in aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) used by the Department of Defense (DOD) and airports to suppress liquid fuel fires from accidental spills as well as vehicle and aircraft accidents.

To discover potential solutions in a rapidly closing window of time, the group will use experiments and simulations at the molecular level to discover what makes the current AFFF so effective. They’ll then deploy machine learning to build mathematical models that predict the transport of fuel through surfactant solutions at a molecular level and suggest new molecules expected to limit fuel transport.

Using this approach, they hope to assist chemists in accelerating the development of high-performance, environmentally friendly foams for use by the DOD, airports, and other high-hazard liquid fuel storage facilities, vtx.vt.edu reports.

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