VEM is the Modern Fire Extinguisher for Space

VEM is the Modern Fire Extinguisher for Space

Vacuum Extinguish Method (VEM) is the Modern Fire Extinguisher for Space
Image Credits: Infowars

Researchers from the Toyohashi University of Technology has come up with a new technique, called Vacuum Extinguish Method (VEM), for a novel fire extinguisher in space.

The basic idea of VEM is completely opposite to what we get with standard fire extinguishers, which spray different extinguishing agents into the firing point. It uses a vacuum chamber to suck the firing matters (including the source) from the burning area to prevent further damage. Not only does it stop the fire from spreading, but it also suppresses the diffusion of other harmful components like fumes, toxic gas, and particulate matter. This feature makes this method a massive hit for all highly enclosed scenarios such as submarines and space vehicles.

Past Experience

The conventional fire extinguishers that are currently used in all the spacecraft of Russia, Japan, Europe, and the United States use Carbon Dioxide gas. Despite the fact that water mist was also considered an option, the former was chosen primarily on the basis of its greater performance in case of electric fires (the most common cause of fire in space). Having said that, we cannot neglect the negative effects of using Carbon Dioxide for this purpose.

The concentration of the gas can increase significantly in the limited volume of the cabin that can lead to some disastrous results. For instance, the spreading of combustible products and CO2 gas is necessary during the spraying process. The problem with this mechanism is that these harmful components can get trapped by the filter due to the air-recirculation procedure. This results in the delaying of the mission. In extreme cases, the Carbon Dioxide filter needs replacement as it wears out completely. Consequently, a substantial amount of replacement stock is needed for longer space missions to ensure smooth flow of work.


The research team from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Toyohashi University of Technology explained VEM as a state-of-the-art new concept proposed primarily for fighting fire in a reverse manner. Basically, all the combustible products are isolated by sucking them into a vacuum container. Once in the container, any of the known fire extinguisher techniques can be used to eliminate the fire. The immediate advantage of the success of this method is that the reaction time (in case of a calamity) of the onboard team will improve considerably because they will not need to wear Oxygen masks before beginning the process. Additionally, the product gas will be effectively removed from the cabin to reduce the damage to the filter. Professor Yuji Nakamura, the Lead of the team, referred to the origination of this idea by saying,

“The idea initially emerged through unreserved discussions with US researchers. Though the test of the concept was simple to implement and confirm, however, systematic study to show its performance such as formulate the performance based on a mathematical model was arduous.”

An ejector system was used to introduce controlled vacuuming while all the devices were activated with sensors to ensure maximum reproducibility. Flame suction images from Schlieren Imaging and direct photography revealed the mechanism that must be followed for this process. Nakamura recently announced the successful development of the complete test device but not without acknowledging the efforts of Mr. Taichi Usuki, an ex-Master Student at Hokkaido University, and Professor Wakatsuki, the Collaborator.

VEM and Space Agencies

Despite the successful experiment of the test device, space agencies haven’t shown any interest in adapting VEM. The element of safety is the most critical aspect for these organizations and that’s the reason why they stick to their well-distributed, older technologies. Having said that, Nakamura mentioned that there is surely a possibility that their method gets consideration from massive space agencies of the world. He said,

“Emerging technological concepts frequently require constant proposal presentations to be recognized. We will continue to refine and present the concept.”

The researching team believes that VEM will be an important part of future space missions. In addition to that, it will help us to extinguish certain fires (metal powder fire) that are unmanageable with our current technology. Given the longer duration of the upcoming missions, it is essential to figure out a much safer fire-safety strategy and this development could prove to be an instrumental step in that journey.

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