DARPA drops the bass to extinguish fire

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has created a bass cannon that can put out fires with sound.

A thing of the past? DARPA

Citing a lack of innovation in fire-extinguishing methods over the last 50 years, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) last week revealed an ear-buzzing new method for putting out fires: blast it with fine-tuned frequencies.

Officially referred to as "acoustic suppression of flame," this simple yet potentially revolutionary method simply relies on two speakers playing a specific low frequency toward the fire.

The resulting acoustics increase air velocity, making it easier to alter the origin of the fire's combustion, also known as the flame boundary layer.

A DARPA statement says the specific sound "leads to higher fuel vaporization, which widens the flame, but also drops the overall flame temperature. Combustion is disrupted as the same amount of heat is spread over a larger area."

On a loosely related note, Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters" once tested a man's claim of being able to put out a fire with a mere human voice. They "busted" the myth after finding that a normal human voice could not extinguish a fire, but did accomplish the feat after amplifying a voice to 149 decibels.

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