These College Students Found A Way To Put Out Fires With Sound Waves

March 25, 2015

Two engineering students at George Mason University have invented a device that puts out fires using sound waves.

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Seth Robertson and Viet Tran started the project as an idea for their senior project. After a year of testing and investing $600 of their own money, it has become much more than a school project. The two applied for a provisional patent at the end of November, which gives them another year to do further testing.

So how does it work?

"The basic concept, Tran said, is that sound waves are also 'pressure waves, and they displace some of the oxygen' as they travel through the air. Oxygen, we all recall from high school chemistry, fuels fire. At a certain frequency, the sound waves 'separate the oxygen [in the fire] from the fuel. 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.'"

There is still testing to be done. Although the students originally envisioned their device as a tool to attack kitchen fires and to eliminate the toxic chemicals used in fire extinguishers, they can see more uses: in confined areas in space, or wide areas outdoors, such as forest fires. Not having to use water or foam would be a bonus in many situations.

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