In the future, the range hood in your kitchen may be able to automatically put out fires. It won’t do it with a dry chemical or a foam, either. It’ll use sound.
Two engineering students at George Mason University, Seth Robertson and Viet Tran, have been working on a portable device that can do just that, and they now have a working prototype. Their contraption makes use of an ATX power supply and a Pyle subwoofer to produce fire-fighting low-frequency sound waves.
There are four things that a fire needs in order to keep burning, and one of those things is oxygen. By pummeling the flames with a barrage of sound (it’s the accompanying pressure that does the real work), that access can be temporarily interrupted and the fire simply dies with an inaudible whimper. You can see how it all goes down in the duo’s amazing demo video: it takes just seconds for their invention to extinguish a simulated kitchen fire:
You might be looking at their contraption and thinking, “couldn’t you just place that thing over the pan and smother that fire just as easily?” Sure you could, but you’d miss out on the fun of telling people you used sound to put out a fire. You also might burn your hand doing that.
Robertson and Tran want to turn their prototype into a commercial product. They’re also working on ways to fight fires larger than the ones on your stove. Tran envisions a future where intelligent swarms of speaker-toting drones do battle with larger blazes — including forest fires.