Is This a ‘Sound Idea’ for a Fire Extinguisher?

The sound wave extinguisher puts out a fire using directed low frequency sound. (Screenshot/YouTube)
The sound wave extinguisher puts out a fire using directed low frequency sound. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Wouldn’t it be good if all you needed to put out a fire was a subwoofer? DARPA demonstrated an acoustic fire extinguisher in 2012, after seeing experiments from other researchers.

Pump Up the Bass to Douse a Blaze: Mason Students' Invention Fights Fires Image: Screenshot/YouTube

Seth Robertson and Viet Tran’s invention fights fires using sound. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Seth Robertson and Viet Tran, engineering students at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, have developed a fire extinguisher that uses no foam, powder, or water.

The prototype extinguisher uses waves produced by a low-frequency sound:

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. A higher frequency sound caused the flames to vibrate, but that was all. The lower frequencies—30 to 60 hertz—seemed to be the so-called “Goldilocks zone” at which the waves were able to effectively keep the oxygen from the flames long enough to suffocate them, CNET said on their website.

Pump Up the Bass to Douse a Blaze: Mason  Students' Invention Fights Fires Image: Screenshot/YouTube

This invention can put out a small fire very quickly.  (Screenshot/YouTube)

DARPA’s device back in 2012 was not something you could easily move around. This new prototype is a portable handheld extinguisher. It consists of a sound frequency generator, a small amplifier, and a collimator made out of a cardboard tube to focus the waves in a specific direction.

Pump Up the Bass to Douse a Blaze: Mason Students' Invention Fights Fires Image: Screenshot/YouTube

The sound wave extinguisher putting out a small controlled fire. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The inventors have even more dreams for their new flagship, The Washington Post reports: “Robertson and Tran envision their technology being used to put out fires in homes—and in the wild. If properly scaled, sound-wave extinguishers would eliminate the need to douse forests in chemicals, or waste untold gallons of water.”

Pump Up the Bass to Douse a Blaze: Mason Students' Invention Fights Fires Image: Screenshot/YouTube

The sound wave fire extinguisher prototype. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The extinguisher was able to extinguish a small, controlled fire with an alcohol accelerant.

This proves that the concept is viable. There are further developments needed, but it’s a start. According to The Washington Post, a local fire department has requested testing the extinguisher on a structure fire.

The days of remembering which fire extinguisher to use on what fire may soon be over.

Why Are These 5 of the World's Most Dangerous Chemicals?
Is It a Bird? Is It a Plane? No, It's a House