Title:
Solid polymers useful as fire starters
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
It has been discovered that solid polymers, specifically poly(α-olefin)s, alone or formed together with other combustible materials, such as paper and cardboard, can form a useful composition for starting fires, such as charcoal fires and fireplace fires using only a single match flame and no volatile organic compounds. The solid fire starting compositions are thus easy, safe, and effective to use and safe to store.



Inventors:
Bright, Edward R. (Ponca City, OK, US)
Milligan, Stuart N. (Ponca City, OK, US)
Application Number:
09/788260
Publication Date:
09/19/2002
Filing Date:
02/19/2001
Assignee:
BRIGHT EDWARD R.
MILLIGAN STUART N.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
C10L11/04; (IPC1-7): C10L1/10
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
TOOMER, CEPHIA D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Cheryl S Ratcliffe (Houston, TX, US)
Claims:

We Claim:



1. A solid fire starting composition comprising at least one polymer that is solid at room temperature and which can be ignited by a single source flame.

2. The composition of claim 1, wherein the polymer has an absence of halogen atoms, sulfur atoms, and aromatic functionality.

3. The composition of claim 1, wherein the polymer is selected from the group consisting of polyolefins, polyamides, polyesters, polyurethanes, polydienes, polyanhydrides, polycarbonates, polyacrylates, polymethacrylates, polyvinylalcohols, polyvinylcarboxylates, polyacrylonitriles, polyamideimides, polyethyleneimines, polyoxazolines, polyethers, phenol-formaldehyde resins, epoxy resins, melamine resins, poly(ethylene-co-vinyl acetate), poly(ethylene-co-methyl acrylate), and copolymers and physical mixtures thereof.

4. The composition of claim 3, wherein the polymer consists essentially of at least one poly(α-olefin).

5. The composition of claim 4, wherein the poly(α-olefin) is a polymer or copolymer of α-olefin monomers having from 2 to 20 carbon atoms.

6. The composition of claim 4, wherein the poly(α-olefin) is a polymer or copolymer of α-olefin monomers having from 6 to 20 carbon atoms.

7. The composition of claim 1 further comprising a flammable/combustible liquid, where the flammable/combustible liquid is combined with the polymer by absorption, adsorption, entrainment, encapsulation or combinations thereof.

8. The composition of claim 1, wherein the polymer is in a form selected from powder, rod, chunk, disk, sheet, particle, granule, or combinations thereof.

9. A solid fire starting composition comprising: at least one polymer that is solid at room temperature which can be ignited by a single source flame; and at least one combustible forming material.

10. The composition of claim 9, wherein the polymer has an absence of halogen atoms, sulfur atoms, and aromatic functionality.

11. The composition of claim 9, wherein the polymer is selected from the group consisting of polyolefins, polyamides, polyesters, polyurethanes, polydienes, polyanhydrides, polycarbonates, polyacrylates, polymethacrylates, polyvinylalcohols, polyvinylcarboxylates, polyacrylonitriles, polyamideimides, polyethyleneimines, polyoxazolines, polyethers, phenol-formaldehyde resins, epoxy resins, melamine resins, poly(ethylene-co-vinyl acetate), poly(ethylene-co-methyl acrylate), and copolymers and physical mixtures thereof.

12. The composition of claim 11, wherein the polymer consists essentially of at least one poly(α-olefin).

13. The composition of claim 12, wherein the poly((α-olefin) is a polymer or copolymer of α-olefin monomers having from 2 to 20 carbon atoms.

14. The composition of claim 12, wherein the poly(α-olefin) is a polymer or copolymer of α-olefin monomers having from 6 to 20 carbon atoms.

15. The composition of claim 9, wherein the combustible forming material is selected from the group consisting of paper, cellulose, wood, cotton, cardboard, derivatized cellulose, wax, synthetic fibers, natural fibers, wicking material, powdered charcoal, carbon-based powders, and the like and mixtures thereof.

16. The composition of claim 9 further comprising a flammable/combustible liquid, where the flammable/combustible liquid is combined with the polymer by absorption, adsorption entrainment, encapsulation or combinations thereof.

17. The composition of claim 9, wherein the polymer is in a form selected from powder, rod, chunk, disk, sheet, particle, granule, or combinations thereof.

18. A method for starting a fire comprising igniting a solid fire starting composition, where the composition comprises at least one polymer that is solid at room temperature which can be ignited by a single source flame.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein in the composition, the polymer has an absence of halogen atoms, sulfur atoms, and aromatic functionality.

20. The method of claim 18, wherein in the composition, the polymer is selected from the group consisting of polyolefins, polyamides, polyesters, polyurethanes, polydienes, polyanhydrides, polycarbonates, polyacrylates, polymethacrylates, polyvinylalcohols, polyvinylcarboxylates, polyacrylonitriles, polyamideimides, polyethyleneimines, polyoxazolines, polyethers, phenol-formaldehyde resins, epoxy resins, melamine resins, poly(ethylene-co-vinyl acetate), poly(ethylene-co-methyl acrylate), and copolymers and physical mixtures thereof.

21. The method of claim 20 where in the composition, the polymer consists essentially of at least one poly(α-olefin).

22. The method of claim 21 where in the composition, the poly(α-olefin) is a polymer or copolymer of α-olefin monomers having from 2 to 20 carbon atoms.

23. The method of claim 21 where in the composition, the poly(α-olefin) is a polymer or copolymer of α-olefin monomers having from 6 to 20 carbon atoms.

24. The method of claim 18 wherein the composition further comprises a flammable/combustible liquid, where the flammable/combustible liquid is combined with the polymer by absorption, adsorption, entrainment, encapsulation or combinations thereof.

25. The method of claim 18 where in the composition, the polymer is in a form selected from powder, rod, chunk, disk, sheet, particle, granule, or combinations thereof.

26. A method for starting a fire comprising igniting a solid fire starting composition, where the composition comprises: at least one polymer that is solid at room temperature which can be ignited by a single source flame; and at least one combustible forming material.

27. The method of claim 26 where in the composition, the polymer has an absence of halogen atoms, sulfur atoms, and aromatic functionality.

28. The method of claim 26 where in the composition, the polymer is selected from the group consisting of polyolefins, polyamides, polyesters, polyurethanes, polydienes, polyanhydrides, polycarbonates, polyacrylates, polymethacrylates, polyvinylalcohols, polyvinylcarboxylates, polyacrylonitriles, polyamideimides, polyethyleneimines, polyoxazolines, polyethers, phenol-formaldehyde resins, epoxy resins, melamine resins, poly(ethylene-co-vinyl acetate), poly(ethylene-co-methyl acrylate), and copolymers and physical mixtures thereof.

29. The method of claim 28 where in the composition, the polymer consists essentially of at least one poly(α-olefin).

30. The method of claim 29 where in the composition, the poly(α-olefin) is a polymer or copolymer of α-olefin monomers having from 2 to 20 carbon atoms.

31. The method of claim 29 where in the composition, the poly(α-olefin) is a polymer or copolymer of linear α-olefin monomers having from 6 to 20 carbon atoms.

32. The method of claim 26 where in the composition, the combustible forming material is selected from the group consisting of paper, cellulose, wood, cotton, cardboard, derivatized cellulose, wax, synthetic fibers, natural fibers, wicking material, powdered charcoal, carbon-based powders, and the like and mixtures thereof.

33. The method of claim 26 where in the composition, the further comprises a flammable/combustible liquid, where the flammable/combustible liquid is combined with the polymer by a mechanism selected from the group consisting of absorption, adsorption, entrainment, encapsulation or combinations thereof.

34. The method of claim 26 where in the composition, the polymer is in a form selected from powder, rod, chunk, disk, sheet, particle, granule, or combinations thereof.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of provisional application No. 60/253,493 filed Nov. 28, 2000, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

[0002] Not applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] 1. Field of the Invention

[0004] The present invention relates to compositions and method for initiating fires, and more particularly relates, in one embodiment, to compositions and methods for starting fires that do not involve volatile liquid organic compounds.

[0005] 2. Background of the Invention

[0006] It is well known that to start fires such as charcoal fires for outdoor cooking and barbeques, or wood fires in a fireplace indoors for warmth and atmosphere that a volatile liquid organic compound is used. Typical compounds employed to start cookout fires or fireplace fires include, but are not limited to, petroleum distillates such as kerosene, even gasoline, and the like. Charcoal lighter fluid is primarily if not entirely kerosene (#1 Fuel Oil), which by a common definition consists mostly of C9 through C17 hydrocarbons. Kerosene has a flash point generally between 100° F. (38° C.) and 150° F. (66° C.), well within the range of normal human activity and habitat. Another measure of kerosene's volatility is that it is also used in jet fuel.

[0007] It is also well recognized that the use of lighter fluids and other volatile organic compounds such kerosene is extremely dangerous. Not only is it hazardous to start fires using these fluids, it is dangerous to store them. Efforts have been made to develop less dangerous methods of starting desired fires, such as wax-based artificial log products, often formed of a molded mixture of sawdust and wax (paraffins) in approximately equal proportions. The wax is ignited with a match, and the burning wax in turn provides a flame to initiate and promote the burning of the sawdust. The available commercial products generally require from about 10 to 12 minutes to reach full flame. After the burning has reached full flame, the height of the flame decreases over the burning life of the fire log, a disadvantage because the visual appearance of the burning process is important to the consumer. Additionally, there is usually an unpleasant odor from the burning wax, as well as heavy smoke produced when a substantial amount of the wax has been burned, which is environmentally unsound or undesirable.

[0008] It would be desirable if a relatively easy method for starting fireplace and outdoor cooking fires could be developed which did not require the use of dangerous, volatile organic compounds, such as lighter fluids. It would also be desirable if compositions used to start such fires could be stored safely, with reduced accidental fire risk.

Summary of the Invention

[0009] Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a method for starting fires that does not involve using volatile liquid organic compounds directly.

[0010] It is another object of the present invention to provide compositions for starting fires that are in solid form, and are relatively safe to store.

[0011] Still another object of the invention is to provide compositions for starting fires that can be easily ignited, preferably with a single ignition source, such as one match.

[0012] In carrying out these and other objects of the invention, there is provided, in one form, a solid fire starting composition that includes at least one polymer that is solid at room temperature that can be ignited, preferably by a single ignition source, such as a match flame. Optionally, the invention may include at least one combustible forming material. The polymer is preferably absent of halogen atoms, sulfur atoms and aromatic functionality.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0013] It has been discovered that volatile liquid organic compounds can be totally and at least substantially eliminated in the process of starting a charcoal grill, a fireplace fire, or the like. The safety of the fire starting process is increased by the elimination of flammable/combustible liquids in starting a charcoal fire. The possibility of explosion during ignition is substantially eliminated, and accidental ignition, such as during storage, is greatly reduced.

[0014] Polymers, such as poly(a-olefin)s and more particularly linear poly(α-olefin)s, formed into useful and convenient shapes having relatively high surface areas, such as rods or sheets or chunks or disks or particles or granules or powders or combinations thereof, can be easily ignited while in contact with charcoal or wood. By virtue of their long-burning nature, the polymers can start the charcoal or wood relatively easily. For example, individual polymer chunks (roughly ⅛ inch in their longest dimension, 0.32 cm) can be molded together to give a desired shape having high surface area due to the many voids present in the resulting shape. This starter compound and shape lights easily because of the relatively high surface area, and burns long and steady because of its polymeric nature.

[0015] There is no critical ratio of surface area to volume for the polymer shapes of this invention, and no critical shape therefore. It is simply preferable that in producing the shapes of the polymers of this invention that the shapes permit oxygen to reach the ignition site or sites during initial lighting and burning of the shape. For instance, in one non-limiting embodiment of the invention, it was discovered that forming the composition of the invention into a flat sheet made it very easy to lay the sheet over a stack or cone of charcoal. In starting such a fire, it is important to maximize the contact of the fire-starting composition with the material to be burned, namely charcoal briquettes. The flat shape of the composition lends itself to softening and melting upon ignition, which causes the composition to conform to the shape of the briquettes and thus increase the physical contact therewith. Using the composition of the invention to start different types of fires, such as igniting sticks and logs of wood may benefit from a different shape.

[0016] Useful polymers include any polymer which can be easily ignited with a single source such as a match and which is a solid at room temperature. More preferably, the polymers should not be volatile, that is, pass into the vapor state from the solid state at room temperature, and thus may create a fire hazard during storage when not in use. Additionally, the polymers should only consist of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen or nitrogen, more preferably only of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, most preferably only carbon and hydrogen. Polymers consisting of other heteroatoms such as halogens or sulfur are not preferred because it is expected that their combustion would produce undesirable by-products. It is also preferred that the polymers of this invention do not contain aromatic functionality such as a phenyl group from using a monomer like styrene or its derivatives.

[0017] Suitable specific polymers and copolymers include, but are not necessarily limited to, poly(olefin)s in particular poly(α-olefin)s, polyamides, polyesters, polyurethanes, polydienes such as poly(butadiene) or poly(isoprene), polyanhydrides, polycarbonates, polyacrylates, polymethacrylates, polyvinylalcohols, polyvinylcarboxylates, polyacrylonitriles, polyamideimides, polyethyleneimines, polyoxazolines, polyethers, phenol-formaldehyde resins, epoxy resins, melamine resins, poly(ethylene-co-vinyl acetate) or its hydrolysis derivatives, poly(ethylene-co-methyl acrylate) or its hydrolysis derivatives, and copolymers and physical mixtures thereof. Preferred polymers comprise, preferably consist essentially of, one or more, i.e. at least one poly(α-olefin), preferably linear poly(α-olefin), wherein the (α-olefin (also referred to as alpha-olefin) monomers include, but are not necessarily limited to, C2 to C20 (α-olefins (2 to 20 carbon atoms), preferably C6 to C20 α-olefins (6 to 20 carbon atoms), such as 1-hexene, 1-octene, 1-nonene, 1-decene, 1-undecene, 1-dodecence, 1-tetradecene, 1-eicosene, and the like, and mixtures thereof (to form co-polymers). While branched α-olefin such as 4-methylpentene-1 also may be used, linear α-olefin monomers are preferred for making the polymers or copolymers. Specific examples include the polymers or copolymers that can be obtained commercially from Conoco, Inc. such as linear poly(1-decene) in a non-limiting example. Polyethylene and polypropylene and other polymers of lower carbon number (α-olefins would be expected to be useful in the compositions and methods of this invention. Copolymers of two or more α-olefins are also preferred. Other co-polymers besides copolymers of α-olefins would also be expected to be useful. The molecular weight of the polymer is not important as long as the material is solid at room temperature. It will be appreciated that more than one polymer may be used in the inventive composition, either in physical mixtures, admixtures, blends or adjacent layers or other physical configuration.

[0018] Within the scope of this invention, it will be appreciated that a solid polymer also includes polymers within the definition of this invention that are in granular or powder form. A binding agent may be necessary to keep a powdered polymer as part of a solid mass. The polymer may also be in a viscous form, and polymers typically used in hot melt adhesives are expected to be useful herein as well.

[0019] In another non-limiting embodiment of the invention, it is anticipated that other combustible materials may be absorbed or entrained or encapsulated by or otherwise mixable with the solid polymers, including, but not necessarily limited to, flammable/combustible liquid materials such as kerosene, as long as the kerosene or other liquids are not appreciably volatile or have substantial vapor pressure at ambient temperature in such an absorbed, entrained or encapsulated state and the polymers or the mixture of the polymer and the combustible forming material remain essentially in a solid state. The relative amount of flammable/combustible liquid materials used is limited by how much can be absorbed, entrained or encapsulated by the polymer. No flammable/combustible liquid material should be able to escape the polymer in liquid or gaseous, either by evaporation, pressure, leaching, or otherwise, under normal storage and usage conditions. Further, the amount of liquid should not be so great that the polymer does not retain its shape- and/or surface-maintaining properties. It is preferred that the surface remains non-tacky. That is, the combination of the polymer and the flammable/combustible liquid should not have so much liquid that the combination begins to flow and thus lose its solid nature or surface properties. The flammable/combustible liquid can be incorporated by a mechanism and/or a method and/or other ways of absorption, adsorption, entrainment or encapsulation as determined by whether the liquid is a solvent, a non-solvent, or a swelling solvent for the polymer.

[0020] In addition to the solid polymer, the inventive composition may optionally include a combustible forming material. A purpose of the forming material is to help lend form and shape to the solid polymer. Another purpose is for the material to burn and help ignite the ultimate fuel (charcoal, wood, etc.). It is not necessary that the forming material assume any particular shape, since, as will be seen, a wide variety of possible shapes will be suitable. The combustible forming material may be internal to the polymer and/or integral therewith, such as sawdust mixed with the polymer, or layers of paper, wood, and the like.

[0021] In one preferable, non-limiting embodiment of the invention, the polymer is contained by a combustible forming material package. The package may be designed to open in various places to permit exposure of the polymer to a match flame when it is time to ignite the polymer to start a fire. The packaging of the polymer thus serves not only as sales packaging, but also as the combustible material to burn and assist in starting the fire, as well as give form and shape and surface properties to the polymer. The combustible forming material may, in some embodiments, completely encompass the polymer. The forming material may be initially ignited by the single source, such as a match flame, and the forming material in turn will ignite the polymer.

[0022] There is no critical ratio of forming material to polymer. It would be expected that too much forming material relative to the polymer included may defeat the purpose of employing the solid polymer as the fire starter.

[0023] Suitable combustible forming materials include, but are not necessarily limited to, paper, cellulose, wood, pulp, cotton, cardboard, derivatized cellulose, wax, synthetic fibers, natural fibers, wicking material, powdered charcoal, carbon-based powders, and the like and mixtures thereof. Examples of derivatized cellulose include, but are not necessarily limited to, methyl cellulose, ethyl cellulose, propyl cellulose, cellulose acetate, cellulose triacetate, cellulose propionate, cellulose butyrate, and the like. In general, ether and carboxylate derivatives of cellulose are acceptable. The composition of this invention may use more than one type of combustible forming material.

[0024] The present invention will be explained in further detail in the following non-limiting Examples that are only designed to additionally illustrate the invention but not narrow the scope thereof.

EXAMPLE 1

[0025] Some ground-up poly(1-decene) was mixed with some paraffin wax in various proportions, under heat. The mixtures were put into molds. After the solutions cooled, they were wrapped in a facial tissue and taped shut. The mixtures ranged from 13.5 g to 16.5 g of poly(1-decene) at a 45 wt. % to 50 wt. % ratio with the paraffin wax. These samples burned easily after a one-match start, and burned hot enough to start a good fireplace fire.

EXAMPLE 2

[0026] The next batch of poly(1-decene) and paraffin mixtures were wrapped in wax paper that had been rolled around a felt-tip marker and were about 4 to 6 inches (about 10 to 15 cm) in length. Poly(1-decene) and paraffin wax were mixed into these tubes with a wick stuck in one end. Poly(1-decene) was added at 12 g for the 4 inch (10 cm) tube and 16 g for the 6 inch (15 cm) tube at a 65 wt. % ratio to 70 wt. % ratio of wax.

EXAMPLE 3

[0027] The next batch of samples involved wax paper rolled around conduit in 4″ and 6″ lengths (10 and 15 cm lengths). Poly(1-decene) was added in 35 g and 28 g quantities at 65 wt. % and 70 wt. % ratio to paraffin wax.

EXAMPLE 4

[0028] Next, poly(1-decene) and paraffin wax were simply wrapped in wax paper with a wick placed in the top. The poly(1-decene) quantity was about 50 g with 25 g of wax added in about a 65 wt. % ratio. The wax paper samples did not work as well as the tissue samples.

EXAMPLE 5

[0029] In this Example, 100% poly(1-decene) was placed into small paper sacks. These samples worked extremely well. It was found that samples of about 100 g poly(1-decene) worked well.

EXAMPLE 6

[0030] On a WYPALL® paper towel, chopped poly(1-decene) solid was spread. WYPALL is a registered trademark of Scott Paper Company. The size of the individual particles ranged from roughly {fraction (1/16)} to ⅜ inch (0.16 to 0.95 cm). The particles were spread into a flat circle about 9 inches in diameter (23 cm). The circle had individual particles touching each other, but many void areas. The polymer was heated for 1-2 minutes with a heat lamp, covered with a second WYPALL paper towel and pressed. The “sandwich” held together well.

EXAMPLE 7

[0031] A cone of charcoal briquettes about 10-12 inches in diameter (about 25 to 30 cm) was assembled with the “sandwich” of Example 6 in the middle thereof. Lighting the WYPALL paper towel covering started some of the poly(1-decene) on fire, but best results occurred when the “sandwich” structure was placed on top of the charcoal. The melting, burning polymer ran along the edges of the charcoal and a successful fire was started using no conventional lighter fluid.

EXAMPLE 8

[0032] Strips of poly(1-octene-co-1-tetradecene) roughly ⅛″×⅛″×2-½″ (0.32×0.32×6.3 cm) assembled into a connected structure similar to a mat, i.e. for the most part only 1 strip high and all strips touching its neighbors. This structure was laid over a cone of charcoal about 12 to 14 inches in diameter (30-36 cm) at its base and 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) tall. The polymer was ignited by a match and fire spread over the mat of polymer. The charcoal ignited as the melting, burning polymer ran along the edges of the charcoal. No lighter fluid of any kind was used to successfully start the charcoal.

[0033] It can be concluded that charcoal briquettes can be successfully started by igniting a solid polymer such as linear poly(α-olefin)s and letting the melting, burning polymer ignite the charcoal. No lighter fluid is necessary, hence the use of volatile liquid organic compounds are greatly reduced or even eliminated in the lighting process of charcoal and other fires.

[0034] In the foregoing specification, the invention has been described with reference to specific embodiments thereof, and has been demonstrated as effective in providing methods and compositions for starting fires such as charcoal fires and fireplace fires. However, it will be evident that various modifications and changes can be made thereto without departing from the broader spirit or scope of the invention as set forth in the appended claims. Accordingly, the specification is to be regarded in an illustrative rather than a restrictive sense. For example, specific combinations of solid, flammable polymers, combustible forming materials, and other components falling within the claimed parameters, but not specifically identified or tried in a particular composition are anticipated to be within the scope of this invention.

[0035] The polymers of this invention can be used as a fuel source in and of themselves, instead of as only an ignition source for other fuel. Non-limiting examples of such use include warming food in food service applications and as a small, portable, compact fuel source in cooking applications.