Video: DARPA Rubs a Flame With an Electric Wand to Extinguish It

Deflecting Fire
DARPA

A recently-concluded DARPA program sought to extinguish fires using unusual methods. No water or simple common chemicals for DARPA: instead, this is "a novel flame-suppression system based on destabilization of flame plasma with electromagnetic fields and acoustics techniques." Below, you will find a video of somebody rubbing a fire with some sort of rod, which puts the fire out.

"Instant Fire Suppression" is the name of the program; it was undertaken by the DARPA research team at Harvard University, aiming to find a way to put out fires that treats them in a fundamentally different way. Typical methods, like, say, using water, or a blanket, are chemical solutions, seeking to starve the fire of oxygen or introduce a substance that destroys the fire's source, that kind of thing. But what if you looked at fire from a physics point of view, rather than a chemical one? Others have tried--we even wrote about one method--but this is the first time we've seen one in action.

"From a physics point of view," says DARPA on their site, "flames are cold plasmas comprising mobile electrons and slower positive ions." So this project was designed to manipulate and extinguish fires using "physics techniques" like acoustics, ion injections, and manipulation of electromagnetic fields. DARPA hasn't said exactly how the fire-killing rod in the video works, but the results of the project will hopefully be scaled up and used inside military vehicles, especially sensitive ones like ships that may not respond well to traditional firefighting methods.