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17-year-old invents a self-activating fire extinguisher to protect homes from wildfires.

17-year-old invents a self-activating fire extinguisher to protect homes from wildfires

17-year-old Arul Mathur has developed a device designed to help put out wildfires near properties. The self-contained and heat-activated fire suppression device called Fire Activated Canister Extinguisher (FACE) can prevent wildfires without human intervention.

The increasing concern over wildfires

Every year, millions of acres of critical wildlife habitats succumb at the hands of wildfires. Not only it displaces animals and people but releases millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere as well. In California, a total of 6714 fires are recorded on August 24 2021, after burning 15,94,956 acres across the state. Over the past three years, there have been almost 7,500,000 acres of wildfire in California alone, destroying nearly 50,000 structures. Shockingly, 2021 is projected to be one of the worst wildfire seasons in history. Arul Mathur, a 12th-grade student from California, has come up with game-changing innovation. He designed a self-activated fire suppression device called F.A.C.E. that snuffs out fires before they consume people and properties. Around 250 F.A.C.E. devices are set up across the U.S.

17-year-old Arul Mathur has developed a device designed to help put out wildfires near properties
17-year-old Arul Mathur has developed a device designed to help put out wildfires near properties

100% Biodegradable Fire-activated Canister Extinguisher

F.A.C.E. is a self-contained and heat-activated fire suppression device that can help stop wildfires before they engulf forests and homes. It puts out fires automatically after detecting extreme heat without any human intervention. The device resembles a wall-mounted metal canister with an air valve on top, an air pressure gauge on the side, and a sprinkler head on the bottom. The device is designed such that it can withstand the extreme conditions which are associated with a high-temperature environment. Moreover, it has a mounting bracket that allows it to be mounted in a variety of high-risk areas and prevent fires. Unlike traditional fire extinguishers, F.A.C.E. contains a mixture of water and an environmentally-friendly fire retardant called Cold Fire.

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How does F.A.C.E. help in suppressing wildfires?

When exposed to fire, the glycerin-bulb sprinkler head activates. It disperses fire retardants over a 4-5 foot radius with 360-degree coverage. It is enough to pressurize the cylinder with a manual air pump or an electric compressor. The manometer, then, makes it possible to regularly check the pressure level, the optimum value of which is around 3.4 bars. The F.A.C.E. can increase the resistance of the property to spontaneous combustion by increasing the resistance of the material to temperature changes. By having a temperature trigger of 155 degrees Fahrenheit (68 degrees Celcius), F.A.C.E. devices can activate well before materials like wood reach their flash point, covering them with fire retardant and increasing their resistance to combustion.

Unlike a traditional fire sprinkler, F.A.C.E. requires no connection to a water supply. If properly maintained, it can remain useful for a long time. It is developed with the help of industry professionals across multiple fields, ranging from mechanical and chemical engineers to fabrication specialists. Every iteration of F.A.C.E. was made after thorough scrutiny by experts from the field.

Journey of developing F.A.C.E.

Arul grew up in New Jersey for the first eight years of his life, where wildfires are essentially unheard of. After moving to California in 2012, he began to hear about the destruction which wildfires caused. However, he still thought that the problem was distant until the fire engulfed his family. In the summer of 2019, a wildfire threatened his family to evacuate their home. Upon questioning himself on the reason behind the spread of wildfire, Arul came up with an answer. By the time firefighters get alert of a wildfire, the fire has already grown out of control for them to take mitigating actions.

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Arul shares, “I reasoned that by owning self-activating fire suppression, individuals no longer had to rely on the fire department to save their homes.” Firefighters could focus on containing the fire, while the residents could control the fate of their property. This period of introspection followed by meticulous research led to the development of F.A.C.E. He is currently running a pilot test with some of his friends from the Kickstarter campaign. He shares, “In general, F.A.C.E. has been very well-received throughout media platforms.” 

Initial Hiccups

F.A.C.E. has undergone 2 years of development so far, with more to come. His biggest hurdle throughout the process was creating an initial functioning design. When he conceptualized the device, he over-engineered it using complex techniques such as thermal sensors and microcontrollers. It took him dozens of tests to refine the components and chemical ratios. Throughout the entire development process, he is in contact with industry leaders in fire prevention, chemical engineering, and fabrication to ensure that F.A.C.E. devices are effective at their application. “I plan to continue this collaboration in the future as I develop the device further. I am looking forward to ramping up production and making it available to anyone who wants it after sufficient research and development has been conducted,” adds young Arul.

Bigger Plans

Arul has a passion for fire safety and prevention and actively seeks out ways to spread awareness. When he is not working on growing his startup, he loves to explore advances at the intersection of technology and entrepreneurship. He is happy advising communities on fire prevention techniques occasionally. In terms of long-term impact, Arul is planning to develop large capacity units with a longer radius for specific use in forest applications. He believes that humanity has seen tremendous strides in technology across generations. Now, we need to use existing technology to develop more efficient and environment-friendly solutions for cleaner energy.

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