DARPA puts out fires with sound and science

first_imgCreating fire was one of the most important discoveries in human history, but in the long run putting it out has proven the more critical skill. As any SimCity or Minecraft player can tell you, fire is an incredibly destructive force that can quickly get out of hand.The U.S. military has a special interest in fire suppression, since they deal with a number of enclosed areas — like ship holds, cockpits, and ground vehicles — where fire is a serious threat. Not content with the time honored approaches to extinguishing flames, which aim to disrupt the chemical process of combustion, DARPA ‘s Instant Fire Suppression program has been researching physics-based alternatives and recently released two videos of their results.The first video shows fire being extinguished with two speakers blasting out sounds at a specific frequency. The sound creates an acoustic field that increases air velocity and fuel vaporization, disrupting the flame by spreading its heat over a larger area.The second video demonstrates an electric approach to the problem. Using a handheld electrode, researchers are able to blow out flames with an ionic wind.For now, both demonstrations are only at the proof-of-concept stage, and DARPA isn’t sure whether either can be scaled up to work inside a military vehicle. However, these new techniques for coping with one of civilization’s oldest problems are impressive on their own, and may have applications outside of fire suppression.DARPA’s information page on the videos suggests that acoustic and electric manipulation might work in the other direction as well, creating more efficient forms of controlled combustion.Read more at darpa.millast_img

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