Throughout history, there’s been a fear of playing God. From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Arthur C. Clarke’s The Nine Billion Names of God, dire consequences await whoever meddles too much in the established world of science. Well, someone should tell the guys who created SafeFlame, a portable device that can turn water into fire.
SafeFlame is a torch that uses a battery-powered electrolyzer system that uses electricity to separate the hydrogen and oxygen atoms that make up water. Then, it recombines hydrogen and oxygen at the torch’s tip, creating a flame that’s cooler than the ones we might be used to.
Most torches use an oxygen-propane or oxygen-acetylene mixture to power its flame, but acetylene is not necessarily ab safe gas. The danger of a gas leakage is so severe, torches that use it are banned in many areas. A hydrogen-based flame, on the other hand, is slightly cooler and safer. For one, all it can produce as a byproduct is water. The torch itself never actually gets hot, since the flame is produced outside of the actual torch.
In addition, it's more controllable. According to SafeFlame's website, "the length of the flame and the heat flux imparted to the work piece can be adjusted instantaneously by adjusting the power input to the electrolyser stack. This provides a more flexible and user friendly solution." In other words, it offers total control over the flame, something that isn't present in many propane or acetylene torches. That might be helpful for someone (say, a sculptor) working on a project that requires varying and specific degrees of heat.
But the most important aspect of the technology is where it go from here. Energy is needed to perform the process, but there’s no reason we couldn't have solar-powered torches in our pocket, or lighters than run on nothing but sunlight and water.