Water Additive Cuts Friction Loss

Water Additive Cuts Friction Loss

Stream reach difference with use of additive is evident in test.Friction reducer is poured directly into booster tank.


The School of Public Safety Administration of the William Paterson College of New Jersey teamed up with the North Jersey Volunteer Firemen’s Association recently to assist in the development and testing of a revolutionary fire stream propellant and wetting agent.

The new product is an aqueous additive for propulsion and penetration of fire streams called Firestream Plus. It was invented and is manufactured by the Riverside Polymer Corporation of Paterson, N.J.

Hydrodynamists have known for over 100 years that at very low rates of flow, the particles of water follow straight lines, but that after a certain velocity is reached, the straight line flow is upset and the particles of water dash wildly about, causing a turbulent or chaotic flow. This chaotic flow takes place when the velocity exceeds the critical. The water is also said to have sinuous motion when the particles of water jet about, crossing and recrossing the interior of the fire hose, thus increasing friction loss.

Friction reducer

Firestream Plus is a friction reducer. When introduced in small amounts into hydrant or tank water, the polymer rapidly suspends itself in the water, preventing internal friction from developing. It also prevents the stream from rubbing against the interior wall of the hose. The turbulent eddies normally occurring on the suction side of the pump are calmed, as is cavitation on the pressure side.

All of this adds up to a laminar water flow when the velocity exceeds the critical along with the elimination of a sinuous motion in the fire stream. The demands on the pump are much less as well. The sharp reduction in friction and the lack of sinuous motion within the hose makes it practical for the pump to develop higher pressures at lower speeds.

Consequently, the benefits of using Firestream Plus are less fuel consumption and greater speed and flexibility in the use of smaller diameter hose where larger hose was previously required. Furthermore, the additive has wetting properties which enhance the penetration and heat transfer rate of the fire stream when applied to baled or compressed materials, which are subject to deep-seated, smoldering fires.

Better extinguishing results

Tests showed that Firestream Plus has produced greater fire extinguishing results per gallon when used in booster and backpack pump-tanks for wetting down brush and undergrowth. The treated water has greater spread, penetration and retarding action, which results in more effective and faster fire control.

Firestream Plus is an electrolytic hydrocarbon oxide polymer complex that has been designed to make hose streams more effective when it is added in minute amounts. Primarily, it functions as a friction reducer, propellant and penetrant. It is based upon a new-generation water-soluble polymer that is energy-absorptive and highly contributory to the improvement of fire stream water.

It can be injected into fresh or sea water by means of a simple, economical eductor on the suction side of the pump, or it can be added to booster tanks or backpack pump-tanks without fear of damaging pumps, tanks, valves, nozzles or packings. Tests at the college showed the additive is nonclogging and is not adversely affected by rising temperatures. In fact, it functions as a high-temperature lubricant. Tests also showed that Firestream Plus is not harmful to persons or the environment. It is non-pituitive and does not create dangerous mucous on the fireground.

Old formulas don’t apply

As a result of the tests at William Paterson College, it was discovered that with the additive induced into the fire stream, a whole new concept of fire stream hydraulics developed which upset the formulas established in 1888-1889 by John R. Freeman. Freeman’s observations of the effective ranges of fire streams were particularly affected when it was found that pitot measurements of Firestream Plus water were not relative to Freeman’s formula for horizontal or vertical reach.

Stream reach difference

For example, 500 feet of lVi-inch hose with a 1-inch tip requires an engine speed of 1500 rpm to develop 170 psi pump pressure with untreated water. The fire stream reach might be 47 feet with a nozzle pressure of 22 psi, according to Freeman’s formula. The same layout and engine speed with treated water develops 220 psi pump pressure for a reach of 80 feet with a nozzle pressure of 28 psi.

It was also found that pitot gages and flow meters designed for plain water do not give correct readings for treated water unless they can be calibrated or adjusted to the change in viscosity.

The tests were made with the cooperation of the following New Jersey fire departments: Packanack Lake No. 5 and Preakness No. 4 of Wayne, Newark, Paterson, and North Haledon.

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