Extinguish Fire with Low Frequency Sound Waves

1. Sustainability Problem: Forest Fires

Year in and year out, wildfires ravage forests; destroy lives, property, and critical ecosystems. The burning of these forests also causes the release of significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. According to the National Interagency Fire Centre, from January 1 to October 3, 2017, there have been 49,864 fires, which affected 8,426,099 acres.

2. Technology

  • In an April 2015 article titled “Dousing Flames With Low-Frequency Sound Waves,” physicsworld.com reported on a prototype acoustic extinguisher developed by two engineering students of George Mason University, Tran and Robertson.
  • According to the article, the technology is founded on the principle that there are mechanical pressure waves that cause vibrations in the medium in which they travel, and sound waves have the potential to manipulate both the burning material and the oxygen that surrounds it.
  • At lower (bass) frequencies, from 30 to 60 hertz, the sound waves are able to effectively displace the oxygen, keeping it from the flames long enough to suffocate them.
  • With an amplifier and cardboard collimator to focus the sound, the final extinguisher prototype is a hand-held, 9 kg, mains-powered device with the capacity to quickly put out small, alcohol-fuelled fires



3. With further research, this could potentially be a useful technology for dousing bigger fires in all situations – urban or rural situations. Organizational stakeholders that will need to use the scaled up technology are

  • Fire Departments
  • Disaster Response Organizations
  • Forest Departments
  • Forest Owners

4. Deploying the Technology

  • Provide training for officers of the fire department and all relevant stakeholders within the district who are likely to use the technology
  • Procure equipment for relevant public authorities
  • Policy: require non-governmental stakeholders in fire-prone areas to secure equipment


Comment on post on AirCarbon by CG3052

According to New Light Technologies, they have successfully shifted the cost structure of the greenhouse gas to plastic conversion process, and enable AirCarbon to out-compete oil-based plastics, such as polypropylene and polyethylene, due to Newlight’s 9X biocatalyst’s ability to generate a polymer conversion yield that is over nine times higher than previous attempts – from a yield ratio of 1:1 to 1:9; without exhibiting a negative feedback response.


One thought on “Extinguish Fire with Low Frequency Sound Waves

  1. The point on incorporating the technology into “swarm robotics” is a fascinating now, with an army of waterless fire-fighting drones ready to be launched at a larger-scale fire. In London, the recent Grenfell Tower fire was incredibly devastating due to the high-rise nature of the building and although many people were saved on the lower levels, firemen could not reach the higher levels fast enough. Drones would have the ability to fight the fire from above, possibly in unison with firefighters working from below, and devices like the sonic extinguisher (possibly in later models) could be light enough that this could become a reality. 

    An additional point is the concern over the high-heat, as the sonic extinguishers currently have no cooling system of their own, which would add weight and expense, and is a design capability that needs to be established. 


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