July 12, 2012, 1:35 PM — While it's unlikely that you will soon be able to put out a fire by pointing your iPhone speaker system at it, this video showcases how "acoustic suppression" techniques can extinguish flames:
From this DARPA Web site, researchers explain that since 2008, the government has been trying to "develop a fundamental understanding of fire with the aim of transforming approaches to firefighting."
Because fire in enclosed environments, including ship holds, aircraft cockpits and ground vehicles is so destructive, DARPA was looking for new ways to fight fire.
"Traditional fire-suppression technologies focus largely on disrupting the chemical reactions involved in combustion. However, from a physics perspective, flames are cold plasmas. DARPA theorized that by using physics techniques rather than combustion chemistry, it might be possible to manipulate and extinguish flames. To achieve this, new research was required to understand and quantify the interaction of electromagnetic and acoustic waves with the plasma in a flame."
As the video shows, "performers succeeded in demonstrating the ability to suppress, extinguish and manipulate small flames locally using electric and acoustic suppression techniques." DARPA says it's still not clear how to scale these methods for defense applications or purposes.
Also, no word whether "Freebird" or Lady Gaga is better suited for putting out flames.
Keith Shaw rounds up the best in geek video in his ITworld.tv blog. Follow Keith on Twitter at @shawkeith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.