Fuel vapor transport through firefighting foam and the transport at the foam-fuel interface have been identified as potential mechanisms that affect foam collapse and fire extinguishment performance, but these hypotheses have not been fully vetted and parameters controlling these phenomena have not been identified. The objective of this research is to identify the properties and features of surfactant solutions used in firefighting foams that will prevent transport of fuel vapor through the foam as well as the surfactant and fuel transport at the foam-fuel interface. In addition to these insights, the multidisciplinary team will deliver models and analytical techniques to assist chemists in accelerating the development of future foams.

Technical Approach

A multi-disciplinary team will perform a parallel experimental and computational modeling effort where the chemistry of the surfactant solution and fuels are varied in controlled scenarios to provide insight on parameters affecting fuel vapor transport phenomena through foam. This will include 1) experiments with different surfactants to study the properties and nanoscale features affecting fuel transport through the foam and foam collapse, 2) models to explore the fuel migration through the foam at molecular and macroscopic scales, 3) designing and screening surfactants to control interfacial fuel transport, 4) identify surfactant solution properties and features affecting fuel transport, and 5) create a molecular toolbox that can be used by chemists to support design of new surfactants. The multidisciplinary research team will work collaboratively to share insights from experiments, modeling, and chemical structure to vet hypotheses on fuel transport through the foam and provide evidence of the important properties and features of surfactants.


This research will assist chemists in developing new, environmentally friendly firefighting foams by identifying the critical properties and features for surfactant solutions as well as tools to support development. The multi-disciplinary team will collaborate to provide computational and experimental evidence of needed properties and features of the surfactant. In addition, this research will deliver a predictive model to support assessment of fuel transport through foam and a suite of complementary analytical tools, both of which will assist in accelerating the discovery of future fire extinguishment foams. The chemistry team will construct a validated toolbox in a complementary fashion to surfactant design, including surfactant molecular weight, surfactant geometry, hybrid tail composition, surfactant topology, and tail reactivity to envision structural modification to enhance resistance to fuel transport.