New laser solution could slow spread of forest fires

Fighting Treetop Fire (FTF) is developing a system of removing combustible foliage with algorithm controlled laser beams controlled via helicopter or truck.

Aggressive wildfires are rampaging through many countries bringing death and destruction in their wake. Across the globe, battling massive forest fires is a phenomenon which experts expect will only increase due to climate change.

It was the massive forest fires in Israel over the past several years that gave electro-optics physicist Daniel Leigh the idea of using algorithm-controlled laser beams from helicopters or trucks to zap leaves, thin branches and pine needles off treetops in the path of fire. FTF developed its laser technology in consultation with Hebrew University academics and with professionals. The company of four is now in the engineering, modeling and testing phase and the technology is yet to reach the market.

Laser (which stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”) uses concentrated light to cut or perforate anything from metal to human tissue.

One might think, the laser heat would make a fire worse, but Leigh explains that the laser works lightning fast and then switches off. The moisture remaining in the foliage immediately extinguishes the combustion.  Moreover, the fallen foliage – while still flammable — forms a compact high-moisture bed with restricted airflow. With less oxygen and densely packed fuel, the ground fire loses intensity and speed, and is easier to extinguish.

 

The technology at the heart of FTF is patented in Israel, Australia and Europe and a US patent is pending and Australia’s interest in the technology is quite significant as they suffer devastating wildfires every summer.  Leigh envisions FTF as a unique rescue tool to create a safe zone or an escape route for trapped firefighters or residents.  The same algorithm-controlled laser technology could prove a valuable firefighting tool for sensitive worksites such as power companies and utilities.

There was also concern about helicopter delivery method in high smoke conditions and extreme wind, but measures are taken to protect the engine from smoke and the aircraft would maintain a safe distance from the fire front and the laser beams would be guided through the smoke by special imaging systems.  “FTF’s new ‘out of the box’ method and tool is designed exactly for such extreme weather conditions that lead to fires uncontrollable with today’s wildfire fighting tools using chemicals and water for fire suppression,” says Leigh.

Interested officials are invited to contact the Economic and Trade Department at the Israeli Consulate General in Bengaluru.   For further queries, contact:

Ms. Veshala Gajaraj, Trade Officer in Bengaluru.
Ph: +91-80-4940 6517

Email: Veshalakshe.Gajaraj@israeltrade.gov.il

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