New Ammonium-free Water Formulation for Fire Retardants for the Management of Wildland Fires

Period of Performance: 09/15/2016 - 12/31/2016


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Nano Terra, Inc.
737 Concord Ave Array
Cambridge, MA 02138
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


Wildfires, based on 5-year average annual acres burned, have more than doubled over the last 30 years and total fire suppression costs have increased nearly an order of magnitude over the same period (i.e. <$300M in 1985 to over $2B in 2015).1 The 2015 fire season, exacerbated by prolonged drought in the Western United States, resulted in ~10 million acres burned by wildfires across the US. Approximately 3.5 million acres of that total were in WA, ID, OR, and CA - regions that contain many waterways with Endangered Species Act (ESA) protected species.2 With the increase in wildfires comes an increase in fire suppression efforts, which in many cases includes the use aerial drops of flame retardant mixtures including FR salts like diammonium phosphate, viscosity modifiers, and corrosion inhibitors.3 These aerial drops are extremely effective tools for fighting fires, however, currently approved flame retardant chemistries are known to be toxic to aquatic species (for example the LD-50 for rainbow trout exposed to diammonium phosphate, a common flame retardant, is only 60-80 mg/L).4With the increased prevalence of wildfires in sensitive and ESA protected habitats, and particularly those that are threatening urban and suburban areas put fire fighters in difficult situations where the use of toxic flame retardants present varying environmental risks, however, not utilizing aerial flame retardant drops may result is significant loss of property and, potentially, lives. A Harvard University study predicts that wildfires will burn longer, wider, and create more smoke by the year 2050,5 which is consistent with the trends of the past 30 years. What is needed are effective flame retardant chemistries with significantly reduced environmental risks that can still provide wildfire fighters with effective management tools.Nano Terra demonstrated success in Phase I by developing a novel class of ammonium-freefire retardantchemicals that have a much lower toxicity to fish without compromising the FR performance. The planned work in Phase II will optimize the fire retardant formulation, validate the chemistry by being certified by the Forest Service, and address scale-up and manufacturability of the fire retardant to be cost-competitive with current commercial products.References:1. Fire Info Suppression Costs(1985-2015).2. ESA Maps For example please see . The map on page 13 "Fed-eral or State Listed Sensitive, Threatened or Endangered Fish Species in Oregon" shows that ~75% or more of the land in Oregon State is inhabited by species that are listed as either sensitive, threatened, or endangered under the ESA.3. Giménez, A.; Pastor, E.; Zárate, L.; Planas, E.; Arnaldos, J. "Long-term forest fire retardants: A review of quality, effectiveness, application and environmental considerations," International Journal of Wildland Fire 2004, 13 (1), 1-15.4. Adams, R.; Simmons, D. "Ecological effects of fire fighting foams and retardants: a summary," Australian Forestry 1999, 62 (4), 307-314.5. Yue, X.; Mickley, L. J.; Logan, J. A.; Kaplan, J. O. "Ensemble projections of wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations over the western United States in the mid-21st century," Atmospheric Environment 2013, 77, 767-780.