Accidental fire? Try turning up some hip-hop

Engineering student extinguishes flames in demonstration. Image / YouTube
Engineering student extinguishes flames in demonstration. Image / YouTube
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Two engineering students from George Mason University have developed a new way to extinguish fire – with low 30-60 Hertz bass frequencies.

It sounds like something from the movies, but scientists have been working on the technology for years. Viet Tran and Seth Robertson have developed a version small enough to be portable with only $600.

The working prototype will put out a small blaze by directing a stream of low-frequency sound at the flames, which creates pressure waves in the air to remove the oxygen from the fire.

The creators have patented the design and Tran says he would like to see it being used as a kitchen device, perhaps mounted in range hoods to extinguish small stovetop fires.

Tran also sees greater things for his design. “Eventually, I’d like to see this applied to, maybe, swarm robotics, where they would be attached to a drone and that would be applied to forest fires or even building fires where you wouldn’t want to sacrifice human life,” he says.

One of the best features of the design is the cleanliness of the product. Compared to regular extinguishers which use foam, powder or water, sound waves produce no waste. Which means that there would be no further damage to expensive components, bringing the possibility of uses outside of Earth.

“In space, extinguisher contents spread all over. But you can direct sound waves without gravity,” says Robertson.

There has been no information as to how the concept would work on large-scale fires. While the device could put out the flames, the fire could simply reignite if the burning material is still hot enough.

It could be possible to add a coolant in required situations. “Engineering is all about finding a way to make the impossible possible, so that’s what we do,” adds Robertson.

According to Tran, the sound is ”like the thump-thump bass in hip-hop”.

Hugh Jannings

Hugh Jannings is an aspiring broadcaster and journalist with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. He achieved his goals at the New Zealand Radio Training School.
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