A pair of engineering students created a new type of fire extinguisher that uses sound waves to put out flames.
The prototype extinguisher was developed by computer engineering major Viet Tran and electrical engineering major Seth Robertson of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. The pair hopes their design could revolutionise firefighting, particularly in the home.
The technology is based on the way sound waves displace oxygen as they move through physical space — oxygen that fire feeds on. If you can suffocate a fire, you can extinguish it, so the pair set to work. They discovered that music is unsuitable – the sound waves it produces are inconsistent.
The next step was the development of a portable, handheld extinguisher.
This device was able to extinguish small, controlled fires created with an alcohol accelerant, proving that the concept is viable. Of course, the next step is further development – testing the technique on different types of fires; seeing if it can keep these fires from reigniting, since the sound waves do not have a cooling effect like water does; and examining the feasibility of developing a device that could deal with larger fires.