Imagine being able to put out a fire with a small electrical appliance instead of having to use gallons of water and foam fed by hundreds of feet of heavy hoses.
Well, this is the brainchild of Dr Ludevico Cademartiri and his team from Harvard University. They presented a paper to the American Chemical Society in which they claim that they managed to extinguish an 18 inch high flame just by using and electrified metal wire.
The Guardian reports that the powers source for this device was just a 600 watt amplifier, the same sort of power that a car stereo requires.
Fire needs three things to exist. First it needs a fuel source, then it needs sufficient oxygen and lastly enough heat. Just removing one of these three will put the fire our. So you can cool it with water, smother it with foam or remove the fuel.
This new technique is based on some observations made 200 years ago that direct current (DC) electricity deforms the shape of flames. Dr Cademartiri's team used alternating current (AC) that actually resulted in the flame being pushed away from the fuel.
Kyle Bishop who worked with the team said "Essentially, the [electrical field] separates the region that's hot and burning from the un-burnt fuel, so that fuel will not continue to burn".
Moving on from fire-fighting the technique, says Dr Cademartiri, could be used to improve the combustion process on all sorts of engines and generators so making them more efficient.