Engineering students extinguish a fire with sound waves
Two students from George Mason University recently extinguished a blaze by using something far less common than an extinguisher or a bucket of water: sound waves.
"Engineering seniors Viet Tran and Seth Robertson now hold a preliminary patent application for their potentially revolutionizing device," their YouTube video explains. The path to their wild discovery began with a school project.
Guiding their exploration was the idea that if mechanical waves in general are a known means of impacting objects, then sound waves in particular may have the power to move around the elements of a fire. In particular, the students' aim was to separate burning material from the surrounding oxygen that feeds it.
Early on, they used high-frequency waves, which they found to have no significant effect. Once they switched to the low-frequency variety -- the kind one often hears in hip-hop music -- they began to see signs of success.
Their goal was fully realized when they used a cylindrical tool with a power source, an amplifier and a collimator which focused the waves on the flames.
N4GM helpfully puts all that into layman's terms, writing: "The fire has a triangle of needs: Heat, Fuel and Oxygen. And simply by taking any of these needs away, you can put out the fire. What wave sound does to this triangle is to bring air (Oxygen) back and forth which keeps the air away from fire but in molecule levels. The fire will act like a cat going after a laser pointer light and that is all it takes to cut off the oxygen from the fire."
The duo says that one day, they hope this technique can help out in a house, perhaps to fight kitchen fires. In the future, though, they believe that their development could be a solution in controlling much larger fires -- and possibly even blazes in space.
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