A recent project instigated by DARPA (the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) has sought to find ways to combat fire in combat through a novel method — the use of a wand to ‘rub’ fire away.
The DARPA team at Harvard ran the “Instant Fire Suppression” project, which aimed to improve firefighting and combat tools by exploring the fundamental components of fire itself, rather than relying on chemical solutions.
Our methods for controlling fire haven’t changed much over the years. Common means of extinguishing flames, such as the use of water or objects, starve a blaze of oxygen and combat fire by removing a component required for combustion.
The research team’s approach, however, differentiates as it relies on the physics of fire rather than chemical balances.
The IFS program ’seeks to establish the feasibility of a novel flame-suppression system based on destabilization of flame plasma with electromagnetic fields, acoustics, ion injection, or other novel approaches.’
DARPA states on their site:
“From a physics point of view, flames are cold plasmas comprising mobile electrons and slower positive ions. By using physics techniques rather than combustion chemistry, it may be possible to manipulate and extinguish flames. To achieve this, key scientific breakthroughs are needed to understand and quantify the interaction of electromagnetic and acoustic waves with the plasma in a flame.”
Although DARPA has not revealed exactly how the fire-vanishing wand works (no doubt since the project has been designed for the U.S. military), it hopes that the techniques may be scalable in the future — and therefore may be more impressive than the ‘birthday candle’ test that we can view so far.
After DARPA’s research is complete, the organisation will decide if they will go one step further — and build a prototype fire suppressant for Class A and B fires to be used by military vehicles.