Roastbusters! Firefighters of the future to zap flames with electric charge?

Paul Raven @ 31-03-2011

I try to avoid doing the old “hey, look at this cool tech idea that may never make it past the drawing-board!” posts these days, but I hope you’ll forgive me this one. I mean, c’mon: who among us can’t get enthused about the idea of tomorrow’s brave firefighters fighting back the flames with Ghostbusters-style backpacks that shoot electricity out of a sort of wand? Sounds crazy, but it’s apparently Real Science™ [via Science Not Fiction]:

Firefighters currently use water, foam, powder and other substances to extinguish flames. The new technology could allow them to put out fires remotely — without delivering material to the flame — and suppress fires from a distance. The technology could also save water and avoid the use of fire-fighting materials that could potentially harm the environment, the scientists suggest.

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.

If someone manages to get this idea to a viable production stage, finding volunteers for forest fire suppression duty should become a lot easier…