The Stack Archive

GMU students put out fire using sound waves

Fri 27 Mar 2015

Two engineering students at George Mason University in Virginia, Seth Robertson, 23, and Viet Tran, 28, have come up with a revolutionary device which uses low-frequency sound waves to extinguish fire without the help of water, foam or other toxic, messy chemicals involved in traditional extinguishers.

Using just $600 (approx. £400) worth of equipment, including a speaker, amps and a collimator, the students constructed the device to rid oxygen from around the flame, and thus snuffing the fire.

The extinguisher uses low frequencies of between 30 and 60 hertz to shoot at the flames and starve them of oxygen.

“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,” explained Tran.

A video posted to YouTube demonstrates the small portable device in use. The extinguisher is held at around half a metre from the flames, which extinguish in seconds.

“I see this device being applied to a lot of things, first off I think in the kitchen on a stove top,” said Tran.

extinguishers“But eventually I’d like to see this applied to swarm robots, where it would be attached to a drone and that would be applied to force fires or even building fires where you wouldn’t want to sacrifice human life,” he continued.

In 2012, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) conducted a similar project on the “acoustic suppression of flame” and discovered that it worked at a smaller level but could not prove if it would work at “the levels required for defense applications,” the agency said.

The two senior engineering majors told The Washington Post that they initially faced a lot of criticism about their invention, with sceptics frequently saying “You guys don’t know what you’re talking about.” They added that even members of the University academic staff did not want to be involved in the project, finally finding the guidance and supervision of Professor Brian Mark.

The duo now owns a preliminary patent application for the fire extinguisher, which will allow them another year for further testing on a range of flammable chemicals.


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