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Fighting Fires With Beams of Electricity 137

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-cross-the-obvious-movie-quotes dept.
cylonlover writes "It's certainly an established fact that electricity can cause fires, but a group of Harvard scientists have presented their research on the use of electricity for fighting fires. In a presentation at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, Dr. Ludovico Cademartiri told of how they used a unique device to shoot beams of electricity at an open flame over one foot tall. Almost immediately, he said, the flame was extinguished. 'Such a device could be used, for instance, to make a path for firefighters to enter a fire or create an escape path for people to exit, he said. The system shows particular promise for fighting fires in enclosed quarters, such as armored trucks, planes, and submarines.'"
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Fighting Fires With Beams of Electricity

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  • Not another obvious joke, the fire department of course! Now with laser beams that are not attached to sharks!

    • I'm sure they'll love it, because walking through "beams of electricity" [which I must assume would commonly be known as "bolts of lightning"] instead of fire.

      • by dintech (998802)

        I think this will probably end up like "Electric Avenue" from Jackass 3D. But with bonus fire. Awesome.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vJjBNNVOZ4 [youtube.com]

        • I hereby announce my invention of the fire-fighting Tesla Coil Hat, which is also a terrific chick magnet at parties. Here at the Gizmonic Institute we are two steps closer to the future than you are. Now I have to go and ready my device for the Invention Exchange. Frank? Where's my Electric Jock Strap?
    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      Another category of civil servant that you have to tell 'Don't tase me, bro!' when they are coming to your house.

    • by Eraesr (1629799)
      I'm gonna call Lord Palpatine [whatjailislike.com] for sure.
  • So your submarine is on fire, burning up your oxygen, underwater, while you're, say, launching nuclear missiles and being pursued by enemy subs, and your solution is to electrify it?

    Awesome. All your base...

    • Woo! Time to submit my patent to the PTO:
      "Description of Selachimorpha-mounted Electrical Fire Suppression Systems"

    • by skids (119237)

      "Cademartiri envisions that futuristic electrical devices based on the phenomenon could be fixed on the ceilings of buildings or ships, similar to stationary water sprinklers now in use."

      Hey don't smoke that in here, you might set off th.... burbleburbleburble!

    • by Gilmoure (18428)

      Capt. Nemo would approve.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... about this "Ludovico technique." It didn't end well.

    • by Lost Race (681080)
      Nobody named "Dr. Ludovico" can possibly be anything but a mad scientist. Beams of electricity to fight fires? Madness!
    • by Thing 1 (178996)
      Yeah, I loved his eyes. Especially with the speculums.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Please oh please.

  • by oldhack (1037484) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:52AM (#35649508)
    Like streams of electrons or ions?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, magic!

    • Like streams of electrons or ions?

      No, protons baby! Using those has certain... fringe benefits.

    • Most likely photons and other various bosons

      Never slime a guy with a positron collider

      And never cross the streams. Or was it don't feed them after midnight? Fuck!
    • by necro81 (917438)
      No, more like "I'm not an actual scientist, and possibly not even a good journalist, so rather than explain what these scientists are really working on, I'll just say 'beams of electricity' to sound all good and technical. My editor won't know the difference any better than me."
    • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

      They meant "electric field" but of course they don't know what the difference is between "electricity" and "electric fields".

      They only tell you what's really going on if you bother to read the "complex" explanation:

      But how does it work? Cademartiri acknowledged that the phenomenon is complex with several effects occurring simultaneously. Among these effects, it appears that carbon particles, or soot, generated in the flame are key for its response to electric fields.

  • by IICV (652597) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:55AM (#35649522)

    Anyone have any idea how this thing actually works?

    The best I could come up with is based on a very small part of the article:

    But how does it work? Cademartiri acknowledged that the phenomenon is complex with several effects occurring simultaneously. Among these effects, it appears that carbon particles, or soot, generated in the flame are key for its response to electric fields. Soot particles can easily become charged. The charged particles respond to the electric field, affecting the stability of flames, he said.

    So I guess what happens is that the electrical field charges the soot and other light carbony things generated in the fire, which causes them to disperse sort of like what happens with this toy [thinkgeek.com]? How does that help extinguish the fire, though? Wouldn't the outward motion of the carbon particulates just bring in more oxygen?

    What other effects are going on?

    • by Penguinshit (591885) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:26AM (#35649648) Homepage Journal
      Perhaps the dispersion of the combustible particles disrupts the fuel/air mixture and halts combustion? It's a stretch but I guess possible. From what I learned in Hazmat class some years ago, you extinguish fire by depriving it of one of the following: Heat, Oxygen, or Fuel. Every extinguishing material does one or more.
      • By Hazmat class, did you mean in grade school? The "fire triangle" is taught to 11 year olds in the UK.
      • It's a Fire Quadrangle. The fourth point is Chemical Reaction. Halon systems work from this angle. It doesn't deprive the fire of oxygen, it disrupts the oxidation process itself. Sounds like this magnetic beam does this also, in a different way.

        • It's actually a Fire Tetrahedron, but the other dimension is pretty obscure, you probably haven't heard of it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      At http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/03/28/6362578-fight-fire-with-a-magic-wand was a small statement that helped me wrap my head around this a lot better: "By applying oscillating fields, the effect was much, much larger"

      Usually this type of thing would be picked up by mainstream media long after technical papers have been written, but in this case the article says they're still 6 months or more away from understanding it well enough to write papers about it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'll guess:

      First thing that comes to mind is "ion wind" [wikipedia.org]. As air ions are usually for the most part consisting of clusters of water molecules [ce-mag.com], ion wind should have cooling effect. The second thing is repelling the oxygen by electrifying the flames with negative charge. However, TA mentions "waves", so perhaps it is all about inducing instability, breaking the convective circulation, dispersing the flames to lower the temperature bellow ignition point ...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Fire's an ongoing dynamic process. Using electrical fields to temporarily disrupt it puts several parts of the process on hold, potentially damping the fire. At that point, conditions would have to be right for it to spontaneously restart.

      That latter part is the reason why I'm dubious that this would be of much use beyond as a parlor trick. Conditions are almost always right for a major fire, and existing extinguishing methods are probably superior (at least adequate and easier to bottle) for a minor fire.

    • Some idea (Score:5, Informative)

      by dackroyd (468778) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:43AM (#35650616) Homepage

      Flames are ionised (i.e. charged) particles. If you have a strong enough electric field (which is really not the same as 'shooting electricity' as per the article) when the charged particles move through the electric field there will be a force on them perpendicular to their motion and to the field i.e. the flame will curve over into spiral.

      If you could get this to happen on a large enough scale, the flame would suppress itself as instead of the flame moving away from the fuel it would hang around - stopping oxygen from reaching the fuel.

      If this all sounds really unlikely, that's because it is. Here it a video showing an electric field affecting a small candle:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fKGeV4NrrA&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL [youtube.com]

      It looks like you need an electric field on the order of 10keV per 5cm to get this effect. So if you wanted to do it on a fire that was say 5 meters across you'd need an electric field in the order of 1MV which while obtainable is not exactly an easy thing to setup - particularly when there's a fire going on.

      • by d3ac0n (715594)

        Flames are ionised (i.e. charged) particles. If you have a strong enough electric field (which is really not the same as 'shooting electricity' as per the article) when the charged particles move through the electric field there will be a force on them perpendicular to their motion and to the field i.e. the flame will curve over into spiral.

        If you could get this to happen on a large enough scale, the flame would suppress itself as instead of the flame moving away from the fuel it would hang around - stopping oxygen from reaching the fuel.

        If this all sounds really unlikely, that's because it is. Here it a video showing an electric field affecting a small candle:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fKGeV4NrrA&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL [youtube.com]

        It looks like you need an electric field on the order of 10keV per 5cm to get this effect. So if you wanted to do it on a fire that was say 5 meters across you'd need an electric field in the order of 1MV which while obtainable is not exactly an easy thing to setup - particularly when there's a fire going on.

        And yet, according to TFA, the researchers were able to extinguish a foot-high flame (presumably fed via compressed gas of some sort) with only a 600 watts of electricity AND they suspect they could do it with much less.

        In the new study, they connected a powerful electrical amplifier to a wand-like probe and used the device to shoot beams of electricity at an open flame more than a foot high. Almost instantly, the flame was snuffed out. Much to their fascination, it worked time and again.

        The device consisted of a 600-watt amplifier, or about the same power as a high-end car stereo system. However, Cademartiri believes that a power source with only a tenth of this wattage could have similar flame-suppressing effect. That could be a boon to firefighters, since it would enable use of portable flame-tamer devices, which perhaps could be hand-carried or fit into a backpack.

        I'm not saying your calculation is wrong, but it certainly diverges dramatically from the information supplied in TFA. (What little there is.) If the researcher is correct, then we are looking at a device potentially as low-powered as a 60 watt electric amplifier. That's small enough to b

        • by dackroyd (468778)

          And yet, according to TFA, the researchers were able to extinguish a foot-high flame (presumably fed via compressed gas of some sort) with only a 600 watts of electricity AND they suspect they could do it with much less.

          Watts != voltage differential

          If there is no electricity being carried then a small power supply can build up an almost arbitrarily high electric field, until it either either arcs or the electric field becomes strong enough to start electrons streaming from it as an ion wind.

          foot-high flame (presumably fed via compressed gas of some sort)

          That sounds like it could have been a bunsen burner - i.e. the flame could still have just been a centimeter or two across, which is a much easier fire to deal with that a wide fire. In fact you could probably put that flame out by just

          • by d3ac0n (715594)

            You may very well be correct. But then, that is what research is for, isn't it?

        • I shadowed a couple of firefighter trainees while working on some promotional materials for a large city fire department. One of the things I went with them on was a hot room exercise where everyone got geared up, entered a room, and the trainer cranked up some truly massive flames. The point of this was to show you how much heat the protective gear could take and what exactly happened when it took too much. Anyway, cool story short, we melted a few fire helmet visors and there is no damn way that a system
          • by d3ac0n (715594)

            Which is why I said that it doesn't have to be a LiPo. I know their drawbacks, I use them regularly. That said, Insulation and basic liquid cooling would be helpful in staving off overheating.

            The use for a man-carried device would be limited anyway. It is doubtful a firefighter would want to carry ANY large battery pack into a raging inferno. The application would more likely be from an initial approach vector. IE: Start outside the fire and bore a pathway into it for a short distance, much like they

        • by idontgno (624372)

          And yet, according to TFA, the researchers were able to extinguish a foot-high flame (presumably fed via compressed gas of some sort) with only a 600 watts of electricity AND they suspect they could do it with much less.

          Probably generated with a Fleischmann/Pons cold fusion generator they whipped together from spare parts.

          Let's see how this discovery fares in independent validation.

      • by Manywele (679470)

        Flames are ionised (i.e. charged) particles. If you have a strong enough electric field (which is really not the same as 'shooting electricity' as per the article) when the charged particles move through the electric field there will be a force on them perpendicular to their motion and to the field i.e. the flame will curve over into spiral.

        That's for a magnetic field. Charged particles move along the direction of electric fields.

      • Sir,

            You have electric and magnetic fields confused with each other. If you have a MAGNETIC FIELD, when charged particles move across (NOT along) it, there is a force on them perpendicular to their motion (and to the field, incidentally).

            In an electric field, the force on the charged particle depends on the orientation of the electric field, not on the orientation of the charged particle's momentum.

            I refer you to the Lorentz equation, which goes like this:
        F = q (E + V cross B)
        where capital letters denote vector quantities and "cross" is the cross-product operator. As you can see, the force from the electric field (q times E) is parallel to E. The force from the magnetic field (q V cross B) is perpendicular to both the magnetic field and the particle's velocity.

            I'm not sure whether the rest of your explanation holds water--when you have a rapidly changing electric field it is accompanied by a magnetic field, which WILL curve particles like you say. In fact, when you have both, you have what is called an "E cross B" drift, in which charged particles have a motion perpendicular to both the E and the B field. (Is that what you meant?)

        And yes, IAAP.

        --PeterM

      • by Prune (557140)
        You're wrong, as they only used 40 kV for a 50 cm flame, and the mode of operation is the reverse of what you suggested, that is, it removes the flame from the fuel (not to mention that they use time-varying electric fields which is different from what you're talking about): http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/03/28/6362578-fight-fire-with-a-magic-wand [msn.com]

        Pro tip: next time do some research before posting.
      • by sjames (1099)

        Since a static charge will do, it's not as hard as you might think, at least indoors.

    • by AB3A (192265)

      A diode can be constructed by trying to pass a small current through a probe in the flame. This diode is caused by the movement of ions through the flame area. However, I wonder what would happen if you tried to pass a larger current through the flame? Might it be able to temporarily neutralize or bind the ions to other molecules? If it did that, would you still have a flame?

      I don't know. I'm just speculating.

      • by unitron (5733)

        A diode can be constructed by trying to pass a small current through a probe in the flame. This diode is caused by the movement of ions through the flame area. However, I wonder what would happen if you tried to pass a larger current through the flame? Might it be able to temporarily neutralize or bind the ions to other molecules? If it did that, would you still have a flame?

        I don't know. I'm just speculating.

        Do you mean that while the probe is in the flame current will flow through it in one direction but not the other, or that the act of putting it in the flame and running current through it will cause it to have the properties of a diode after it has been removed from the flame? Your use of the word "constructed" has me unsure.

        Of what is this probe made? Is it U-shaped? (current can't just go to end of conductor and stop, it has to get back to its point of origin)

        • by AB3A (192265)

          Do you mean that while the probe is in the flame current will flow through it in one direction but not the other, or that the act of putting it in the flame and running current through it will cause it to have the properties of a diode after it has been removed from the flame? Your use of the word "constructed" has me unsure.

          Of what is this probe made? Is it U-shaped? (current can't just go to end of conductor and stop, it has to get back to its point of origin)

          I meant the former. Google flame diode and you'll see what I'm talking about. Many gas stoves and furnaces now use this technique to assure a flame is present.

    • by Gilmoure (18428)

      If they're able to cause the carbon atoms to form C60 and then drop to the ground...

    • by pclminion (145572)

      So I guess what happens is that the electrical field charges the soot and other light carbony things generated in the fire

      An electric field can't charge anything -- charge is produced by charged particles. An electric field is just a field. However, it can separate charges if strong enough, and it can influence charged particles. You can test this yourself by putting a lit candle in a microwave. Obviously do not do this in your fancy microwave.

  • Water dripping off you, down your neck, sliding around in foam and soaked to the skin kind of wet. You could pee your pants and know one would even know, except for the funny coffee smell, kind of wet. The fist thing that happens is utilities disconnect the gas and power meter before anyone enters the structure (power and water don't mix). Never mind the Scott packs. Now water around your feet and a battery strapped to your back where do you put your Scott pack? Also your gear already weighs about 60 pounds
    • we already have a grenade like device that will snuff out a fully engulfed house for 12 minutes the only side effect is a fine white powder on everything.

      Is the device called Charlie Sheen?

    • by icebrain (944107)

      Not all of use use Scott packs... ours are MSA.

      Second, please give me more information about this "grenade like device that will snuff out a fully engulfed house", because I'm sure our chief would like to buy a case or three of them to try out. It would make things a lot easier if all we had to do was lob a grenade into a house instead of humping a bunch of hose.

      To get back on subject, this technology doesn't appear to do anything to cool the heated gases down, put out smoldering embers, get rid of smoke o

      • Not all of use use Scott packs... ours are MSA.

        Second, please give me more information about this "grenade like device that will snuff out a fully engulfed house", because I'm sure our chief would like to buy a case or three of them to try out. It would make things a lot easier if all we had to do was lob a grenade into a house instead of humping a bunch of hose.

        To get back on subject, this technology doesn't appear to do anything to cool the heated gases down, put out smoldering embers, get rid of smoke or prevent reignition (or backdraft/flashover). Putting the flame out is great, but without adequate ventilation and some means to cool the surroundings, you're not doing too much for the people inside. Everything else will still have to be done the old way.

        A quick google and I wonder if it's these stat X grenades. Every house should have some. http://www.jhcfirestopbuyamericanmaterials.com/stat-xgrenade.html [slashdot.org]">

    • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:27AM (#35650874) Homepage Journal

      Except if firefighters use electricity instead of water to extinguish the flames, they won't be wet. Fire trucks seem like good places to keep a large mobile battery, or a capacitor for recharging from power lines nearby the disconnected building, or a transformer while the building is disconnected. Or maybe buildings will have fire suppression power equipment installed that uses this electric effect.

      The point is that electricity replaces water, so they don't have to mix.

      • Except if firefighters use electricity instead of water to extinguish the flames, they won't be wet.

        It's not all from the fire suppression sprays. Some of it is called "sweat". Lots of salt in it so it's very conductive. Drops the skin resistance by several orders of magnitude.

        People tend to emit a lot of it, coating their bodies, when covered with protective gear, toting lots of heavy fire suppression gear or rescued victims, jogging up and down stairs, or hacking their way through doors or walls, all i

    • "This is stupid"

      Thanks, that is the first ok commentary I've seen. That should be the title of the article... Now I'm thinking if I should tag it.

      There is no need to save the peole if you electrocute all of them while fighting the fire. Oh, and for the other posts that say you won't need to bring water, well, those people are made of water, and quite condutive. People normaly don't face kV/cm electrical fields very nicely, most of them fall out dead, and after a while start to burn.

      That said, it could be t

    • by Shotgun (30919)

      1)Plenty of people work around high voltage equipment in wet environments.
      2)Strong electric fields don't necessarily mean exposed conductors.
      3)A device like this would lead to less of a need to be completely sopping wet.

      Fire is a feedback process. A flame heats material till it outgasses. The gasses rise up into heat till they chemically react with the oxygen in the air, an exothermic process that feeds energy back to help outgas and burn more mass from the parent material. If you can interrupt the addit

  • REALLY want video! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wisebabo (638845) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:59AM (#35649546) Journal

    If there's a story that is crying out for some audio-visual documentation, this had got to be it!

    I mean electricity and fire (and maybe they use a laser to create an ionized channel for the electricity to go through).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If they can put out a magnesium fire with this device then I will be impressed. I would also like to see it tested in a room full of hydrogen/oxygen mix.

    • by sFurbo (1361249)
      It probably wouldn't work, based on the few details in TFA. It seems that key to this technique is the effect on soot particles, which aren't present in neither magnesium/oxygen or hydrogen/oxygen fires. Soot particles are what makes the flames visible, so this seems to work only on fires with visible flames.
    • Re:Magnesium (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ThunderBird89 (1293256) <zalanmeggyesi@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @04:01AM (#35649810)

      Let's see them take on a metal-fluoride fire! For those, I've always recommended a good pair of running shoes.

    • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

      I would also like to see it tested in a room full of hydrogen/oxygen mix.

      Either you just mean a room full of water vapor, or it will just be a room full of water vapor in about a split second if it ignites. Minus whatever water vapor escaped when the roof blew off.

  • by Rollgunner (630808) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:17AM (#35649622)
    Who cares about putting out the fire... I just want the Lightning Cannon.

    Evil Overlord Notice #1 : Discontinue Operation : Weaponize Shark immediately.
    Evil Overlord Notice #2 : The Commissary of Evil will be serving fish sticks all week.
  • "Shooting beams of electricity" sounds like Ghostbusters, not real world physics.

  • by Polo (30659) * on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @04:24AM (#35649922) Homepage

    This would be a fun way of extinguishing the candles on your birthday cake...

    Might even work with those "prankster" candles that relight ... :)

  • I know that calcium was instrumental in the development of imcimal baratilam [youtube.com].
  • I'm not feeling very competent, but:

    a) Soot particles aggregate, lowering their surface-to-volume ratio, shutting down the combustion, or
    b) Soot particles escape the plasma, shutting down combustion, or
    c) Electron flow from the gun interferes with the combustion reaction itself, which would be awesome

  • by hqrdqa1 (1091885)
    Cool!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    And what the hell are beams of electricity?

  • Come on! Fire, water, and now beams of electricity! What could happen! [scrapetv.com]

  • The police and fireman can share a tool, a tazer doubles as a fire extinguisher!
  • by SirLoadALot (991302) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:42AM (#35650610)

    Danilo Odell: Yeah, what the hell was that thing?
    Lieutenant Worf: Automated fire system. A force field contains the flame until the remaining oxygen has been consumed.
    Danilo Odell: Ah, yeah, w-what if I had been under that thing?
    Lieutenant Worf: You would have been standing in the fire.
    Danilo Odell: Yeah, well, leaving that aside for the moment, I mean, what would have happened to me?
    Lieutenant Worf: You would have suffocated and died.
    Danilo Odell: Ye-ah, sweet mercy.

  • No wait! DON'T CROSS THE STREAMS!!!!! Give me a break. "Beams of electricity"? Could have been described in a more Slashdot-friendly way. Maybe "Bolts of Karma".
  • the next thing is that the brilliant doctor would be kidnapped by the evil Fu-Ling, who would use the invention to down airplanes by inhibiting their internal combustion engines. Fortunately the hero's plane is atomic powered.

    • by shmert (258705)

      How about a 1980's Subgenius Pulp Story?

      From "Bob and The Oxygen Wars"

      view-source:http://www.subgenius.com/bigfist/classic/classictales/OxygenWars1.html

      I couldn't quite believe he was aiming us right into the fire. He sure
      didn't look suicidal, but whatever he had in mind was beyond me.
      At last he grabbed the mutated gearshift. I managed to keep one eye
      on his hands as the wildfire bore down on us. Now we'd see something.
      The conical hood omament suddenly pronged forward, stretc

  • in enclosed quarters, such as armored trucks

    This must occur more often than I realize.

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      This must occur more often than I realize.

      Think armoured personnel carriers, armoured fighting vehicles, tanks, etc. Right now they generally use halon which, while fairly effective at putting out fires, also has a tendency to suffocate and/or poison anyone who survived the initial hit.

      • Well, electrocuting everybody won't be any better. Just remember, several kV/cm is way stronger than a normal lightining.

        • by c6gunner (950153)

          I think amperage is kinda important, too. High voltage low amps just means you'll end up tazing everyone in the vehicle. Sucks, but better than death.

          I'm not saying this system would actually work in that role - they haven't provided nearly enough data for me to make any serious comments on it. I'm just pointing out that they're probably talking about combat vehicles rather than a Brinks truck.

          • Well, the current you'll apply on a conductor is a function of the electrical field, you can't simply choose it. What you can do is restrict the time you apply that current, reducing the charge, but the device needs to transfer some charge to work.

            I maintain that a powder based extinguisher is simpler, cheaper and safer.

  • Surely such powers cannot be trusted in the hands of muggles, esp. war mongering ones who will turn anything and everything into military research.
  • While you used Einstein as the 'icon' for this article, Tesla would have been more on target here.

  • On the face of it, I can't imagine that firemen would be really pleased at this.

    Let's see we have fire, smoke, water, (and in the examples they gave) all-metal vehicles. Let's toss in some high-voltage electricity?

  • We really do live in the frickin' future .
  • It strikes me that this could be one of the FEW inventions that are actually worthy of a patent.

    Also, I wonder how scalable this technology is. The explicitly say in the article that this wouldn't work well for a forest fire: why not?

    Another thing I wonder is this: if you put out a fire with water, you cool down the stuff that's burning as well as removing oxygen. If your new flame suppressor is applied to a hot pile of, say, burning wood, the flame may go away as long as it's pointed at it, but wouldn'

    • by Shotgun (30919)

      Get you a good hot fire going on your grill, and then cover it with the lid for a minute. You will see that it depends on how long you keep the fire down. Pop the lid off as soon as you see the flame go down, and it will flash back up. Hold the lid down for a few more seconds, and you will notice that the flame comes back, but rather slowly. Hold it down a little longer, and you may have to get your lighter out to start it back up.

      Fire is a feedback process. A flame heats material till it outgasses. T

  • It's just like an evil Italian scientist to bring a Tesla coil to a firefight.
  • This sounds like a Popular Mechanics article from the 1930's. "Fighting Fires With Beams Of Electricity -- From Zeppelins!"

  • Such a device could be used, for instance, to make a path for...

    oh, police wanting to mow down a group of peaceful (or not so peaceful) protestors? I'm sure if this isn't vaporware that the Defense Dept. and several police departments would love to get their grimy hands on it.
  • Think of a flame speaker [wikipedia.org], but playing something really really boring.
  • Apparently, EM pulses have also been studied by the Pentagon for fighting fires http://www.stormingmedia.us/97/9736/A973683.html [stormingmedia.us]

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