...it's actually a concept that's been kicking around for some 200 years that, for no particular reason, simply hasn't been developed.
Last week, team leader Ludovico Cademartiri showed the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society how electricity could bend, twist, turn and flicker flame.
And yes, it can even snuff it out.
Dr Cademartiri proved it for the society by shooting a beam of electricity from a "wand" at 30cm-high flames.
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Almost instantly, it was snuffed out, time and time again.
The wand was channelling about the same amount of power as a high-end car stereo system, which Dr Cademartiri said was about 10 times more than he thought was necessary.
That means a similar device could be carried in a backpack - in other words, future firefighters could all be carrying portable, fire-quelling magic wands.
"Our research has shown that by applying large electric fields we can suppress flames very rapidly," he said.
"We're very excited about the results of this relatively unexplored area of research."
Which is not surprising. Rather than douse your entire home or office with thousands of litres of water or foam, your local hero simply waves his wand, parting the flames for you and your family to escape before performing an extinguishing sweep, yes?
It's about now that we'd say the future vision doesn't quite live up to the present reality, but Dr Cademartiri says there's no reason why not.
He says carbon particles, or soot, generated in the flame are the keys to its response to electric fields.
Soot particles can easily become charged. The charged particles respond to the electric field, affecting the stability of flames, he said. ... The idea holds particular promise for enclosed spaces, such as airplanes and submarines. ...
via DARPA gets behind bid to put flame-quelling electric wands in the hands of firefighters | Herald Sun.