Study finds you can fight fires with electricity
As the saying goes you should fight fire with fire. Researchers from Harvard University have found that the saying should actually be that you should fight fire with electricity. The discovery, which was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), could open up a whole new genre of fire-fighting devices to compliment foam, powder and other substances used by firefighters today. The discovery is based on an observation which is over 200-years-old that found electricity can affect the shape of flames and even put them out.The study was conducted by Ludovico Cademartiri, Ph.D., and his colleagues in the group of George M. Whitesides, Ph.D. at Harvard University, and funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency under the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Energy. It found that when they connected a 600-watt electrical amplifier to a wand-like probe they were able to shoot beams of electricity capable of putting out a flame more than a foot high time and time again.The 600-watt amplifier has about the same power as a high-end car stereo system, but Cademartiri believes only a tenth of the wattage is needed to suppress flames meaning a portable electrical device could be made. Such a device wouldn’t be practical for large fires like forest fires, but would be valuable fighting fires in enclosed spaces such as those on armored trucks, planes, and submarines. It could also create paths for firefighters to enter a blaze and to establish an escape path for people.The electricity works on the fire by charging soot or carbon particles within the flames so that they respond to an electric field. This allows the heat and the distribution of flames to be controlled. For this reason, it is believed the technology not only has implications on fire fighting, but could improve the efficiency of other technologies including car engines, power plants, welding and cutting torches.Read more at the ACS press releaseBrian’s OpinionTalk about a futuristic way to put out fires. Just imagine seeing a firefighter pull out a wand to shoot beams of electricity in front of them acting like a shield to push flames out of his or her path. Also, think of what this might mean for fire suppression devices used in buildings and submarines.As we all know, water sprinklers can be valuable for putting out flames, but the trade off is that water also ends up damaging everything it falls on. A beam of electricity would be less destructive, though it probably wouldn’t be the best thing for data-centers or personal computers. In fairness, neither is water, but at least only electrical equipment would be damaged using electricity.It’s amazing to think this technique has been known about for over 200 years. Unfortunately, it has taken that long for researchers to look into what could be done with the knowledge. Now we know it may not be too much longer before we equip firefighters with their own kind of light-saber to fight fires.