Video: Special research unit stops fire with electricity, sound

The U.S. military research unit DARPA has developed ways to fight fire using sound and electricity

By George Dvorsky

WASHINGTON — Traditional fire fighting techniques have relied on dousing flames with water or chemicals. But in an effort to fight fires in combat environments, DARPA has developed a groundbreaking technique where flames can be extinguished by using electricity and sound. But while the proof of concept has been established, the real challenge will be in bringing it to the real world.

The Pentagon has good reason to be concerned about fires. Back in 2008, a fire aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington burned for 12 hours and caused about $70 million in damage. The incident resulted in the founding of DARPA's Instant Fire Suppression (IFS) program with the stated goal of learning to better understand the fundamental properties of fire in order to transform the ways it can be extinguished.

A major revelation came in the way that the researchers framed the very nature of fire. According to physicists, flames are actually a cold plasma. This realization led DARPA to theorize that applied physics — not chemistry — could help them come up with a novel way of putting out fires.

Full story: Watch how the U.S. military fights fire with electricity and sound

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