News & Events

Answering a Burning Question

When an oil spill occurs in open water, fire can be the most effective tool for cleaning it quickly before the oil can settle into the water column and cause ecological damage. But experience with open-water oil fires has shown that they can be difficult to sustain, produce thick smoke, and leave behind a tar-like residue that can harm marine life. A team of researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute has developed a new technology that promises to overcome these shortcomings while also significantly accelerating the clean-up process. This simple and inexpensive technology was recently field tested with the United States Coast Guard and the Bureau of Environmental Enforcement.

In the News

  • National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” program profiles the WPI-developed Flame Refluxer, a novel technology that can greatly accelerate the combustion of crude oil floating on water, minimizing the environmental impact of future oil spills. “The coils collect the heat from the flame and they transmit it through the copper blanket,” Ali Rangwala, associate professor of fire protection engineering, explained to NPR. He and a team of researchers developed the Flame Refluxer.
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WPI’s Yanhua Li, assistant professor of computer science and data science, received a $174,596 grant from the National Science Foundation for a transportation study involving a "hub-and-spoke" model: an alternative urban transit system. He also appeared on WBUR radio discussing his grant.

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