“All About That Bass” may have been a hit song last summer, but it’s also the basic concept behind a prototypical fire extinguisher that uses sound waves to put out flames. Created by Viet Tran and Seth Robertson, engineering seniors at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, the invention uses sound waves in the 30 to 60 Hertz range to separate oxygen from an object on fire, extinguishing flames without using water or chemicals.
The 20-pound portable extinguisher was created as a final project for the pair’s Advanced Senior Design class, costing them about $600 to develop. While initially they expected that larger speakers emitting ultra-high frequencies would do the trick, they ultimately found that using low frequencies, a speaker and a cardboard tube to focus the sound waves was the answer.
By eschewing the use of water or chemicals to put out a fire, the invention reduces the potential collateral damage that would come from typical foam-based extinguishers or sprinkler systems. As Robertson noted in a GMU press release, the invention would be useful for astronauts: “In space, extinguisher contents spread all over. But you can direct sound waves without gravity.” The team also envision the invention being used for specially equipped drones in order to reach areas that can’t be reached by firefighters.
The pair were mentored by electrical and computer engineering professor Brian Mark, and applied for a provisional patent with the help of Carolyn Klenner, intellectual property paralegal, in GMU’s Office of Technology Transfer.
What are some other potential uses for this technology? Share your thoughts in the comments below!