New Fire Extinguisher: Bass Hum Booms Flames Out

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of

“It’s not much to listen to, just a low hum, but when pointed at flames, it makes them vanish. In a way, it’s like blowing the fire out, because sound waves are basically multiple, regular blasts of air,” Viet Tran and Seth Robertson, two engineering students in Fairfax, Virginia, reported Ben Brumfield, in his article titled “New Fire Extinguisher: Bass Hum Booms Flames Out,” for CNN.

Robertson and Tran have beaten a defense agency to the punch, according to George Mason University, where the two developed the extinguisher as a sort of senior year final exam. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has run experiments on blasting out fire with sound but do not appear to have developed something as handy as an extinguisher, reported

With water, powder, foam and chemicals, there are already many means of dousing a flame, but putting out a blaze usually leaves behind a big mess; however sound waves are much cleaner. Tran envisions the new extinguishers starting out small, perhaps mounted over stovetops to put out grease fires. Or astronauts could deploy them, according to

“In space, extinguisher contents spread all over. But you can direct sound waves without gravity,” Robertson stated.

When they started out, Tran and Robertson’s idea scared off classmates, who though it was a sure ticket to an F. Professors were leery of supporting them. Then Professor Brian Mark agreed to mentor them, though he first thought the project would fail, according to

“Some students take the safe path, but Viet and Seth took the higher-risk option,” Professor Brian Mark said.