Material sustains burning fires

Scientists from Nottingham University have proved that a lightweight stainless-steel-based alloy fibre material could increase the burn time of an open fire by as much as 30 per cent.

It is hoped that the high temperature-resistant mesh called Coalmiser, developed by the Nottinghamshire-based company Fibre Technology (Fibretech), could benefit thousands of people by enabling the coal’s heat to be released over a much longer period of time.

Fibretech, based at Pinxton, approached the Environmental Technology Centre (ETC) at the university after discovering the new application for its Rapid Solidification Technology (RST) for stainless-steel fibres.

There, researchers Dr Mike Clifford and PhD student Joel Chaney in the Faculty of Engineering, in collaboration with Arthur Scott from National Energy Action, showed that when the mesh was placed over the grate of a domestic open fire, or replaced the grate altogether, the fire lasted 30 per cent longer with only a slight reduction in temperature.

Dr Mike Clifford said: ’The results from these tests suggest that this material could be useful to keep domestic coal fires burning longer without significantly reducing the temperature. I’m also interested in the impact that this material could have in reducing wood consumption in stoves used for cooking in poor countries.’

Six of the high-tech metal pads would be needed over a winter lasting from the beginning of September to the end of May, at a cost of less than £10 each. The company is also planning to offer a recycling scheme.

Lee Marston, technology manager of Fibretech, said: ’The average home would use five or six Coalmisers per year costing £9.99 each, but would save the average solid fuel user £45 per month. We also want to encourage recycling of the product by using recycled packaging and offering a free Coalmiser for every one that is sent back to us for recycling.’

The company also plans to launch a similar product for use in summer barbeques, which can be used in exactly the same way with the added benefit of helping to cook food more evenly.

Dr Gérald Busca, project officer at the ETC, said: ’With our support and advice, Fibretech was able to test the idea and prove that it did keep the fuel burning for longer. It was clear that this may make a considerable difference to people who are spending a significant proportion of their money on heating their homes.’