Dousing flames with sound waves, new fire extinguisher makes no mess
Like a gadget from a superhero's gizmo-kit, two engineering students have invented a device to battle blazes with noise – water and toxic chemicals not required.
When Seth Robertson and Viet Tran from George Mason University hatched their senior project plan, there were plenty of raised eyebrows. But the doubters no doubt ate their words when the two engineering students debuted their creation: a fire extinguisher that successfully puts out flames with sound waves.
Their initial idea was to employ high-pitched tones, but as it turned out, low-frequency sounds were the ticket, "like the thump-thump bass in hip-hop," Tran told the Washington Post.
By hitting fire with the low-frequency sound waves in the 30 to 60 hertz range, the device separates oxygen from fuel. “The pressure wave is going back and forth, and that agitates where the air is. That specific space is enough to keep the fire from reigniting,” Tran said.
While the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been working on dousing fire with sound for years, the agency has yet to develop something as practical as the young engineers' vision has proven to be.
Robertson and Tran see their technology being used everywhere from the home to the wild to space – and just imagine scaled up, the waste of water and mess of chemicals could be dramatically mitigated. Although the debut device was only used to extinguish alcohol-based fires, working on putting out fires fueled from other materials is their next step. They now hold a preliminary patent application for their innovative invention; next stop, boom-box firetrucks and stereo fire planes.