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electric fire extinguisher

An electric fire extinguisher is thin wire that generates electric fields that, when directed towards smoky flames, can put out fires.

Chemist Ludovico Cademartiri of Harvard revealed his new discovery at the 2011 American Chemical Society (ACS) conference. Scientists have known for years that electricity may be able to fight fires but all previous attempts used direct current (DC) and its effects were too small to be noticed. Cademartiri’s invention uses alternating current (AC) to multiply the effects of the electric field.

When attached to a 600-watt amplifier, the wand can snuff out flames of up to twenty inches and its effects increase as voltage increases.

According to Cademartiri, "the electric field interacts with the charged particles in the flame — the electrons, ions and soot particles — and this collective motion of the charges in the electric field can lead to movement of the gas within the flame. The mechanics of suppression is that the flame gets detached from the fuel source, so it gets pushed away."

This technology has potential for use in data centers, where fires are catastrophic and water is the enemy.

Watch Ludovico Cademartiri reveal his discovery at the 2011 ACS conference

This was last updated in April 2011

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