While it's easy for science fiction writers and movie makers to tout things like teleporters and hologram maps, one piece of science fiction may have just become a reality for two seniors at George Mason University.
CNN reports that Viet Tran and Seth Robinson, two seniors at the university, may have developed the most advanced method in the world for fighting fires. Their new fire extinguisher looks similar to the standard cylinders used by firefighters today, but this one utilizes a completely different set of technology to fight the blaze.
The extinguisher the two young students have invented uses sound waves to snuff out fire. While the device doesn't make an extremely loud noise, but emits a rather low bass hum, the effect it has on fire is almost unbelievable. When the extinguisher is pointed at flames, it simply snuffs them out, much like blowing out a candle.
The sound waves act in the same manner as if you were to blow out a candle. Each throb of the bass note emitted by the extinguisher is basically a separate puff of air that simply puts the fire out. The two young men experimented with different sound frequencies to get the right combination. They both thought that high pitched frequencies would be the way to go, but their experiments with ultra-high pitched sounds left them striking out.
Then, they began to experiment with ultra-low pitched frequencies, and finally figured out the best one for the task at hand. Tran says, "it's the low-frequency sounds -- like the thump thump bass in hip-hop that works."
While the project is receiving high praise from faculty at George Mason University now, the two students originally feared their project would land them in the hot seat. It was this project they took on as a final project for their senior year. Most of their classmates were certain they'd end up flunking the course. Finally, one professor, Brian Mark, agreed to help them with their project and they embarked on a journey that may well have landed them in the pages of history.
While it's doubtful that we will see hook and ladder rigs showing up to apartment fires with huge subwoofers mounted to the side of the rig, deploying small home use extinguishers is a possibility. The firefighters at the New York and Chicago fires we covered earlier this week could have used some of these devices on the scene. Sound waves are much cleaner than the typical water or chemical extinguishers most homes and businesses use, and if the idea takes off, we could soon see Robinson and Tran's invention marketed for homeowners everywhere.
Congratulations to these two brilliant young men for their pioneering work on this project. As it turns out, they actually beat the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to the punch on this device. The agency has been experimenting with putting fire out with sound for quite some time, but has not yet developed a working extinguisher.