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Believe it or not, Harvard chemists can snuff flames with electricity
Fuel Fix ^ | March 29, 2011 | Eric Berger

Posted on 03/29/2011 9:13:07 AM PDT by thackney

Since the time humans first began to control fire around 400,000 years ago we have had just a few simple tools to douse the flames.

Now some Harvard University chemists believe they have found a way to bring fire suppression into the digital age by controlling flames with electricity.

During a series of experiments to study the chemical nature of fire, scientists were surprised to learn that by applying an electrical field to a burning flame it easily went out. All they needed to do is wave a wand-like, electrified metal wire near the flame.

‘What did I do wrong?’

“As a scientist you find it fascinating, but you have to control your emotions and ask how nature is trying to deceive you,” Ludovico Cademartiri recalled about the experiment. “I was thinking, ‘What is wrong with this experiment? What did I do wrong’”

As it turns out, he and other chemists in the lab of Harvard chemist George Whitesides had done nothing wrong.

Nearly all previous study of flames and electric fields involved those generated by direct current, or DC, instead of alternating current.

“What we discovered is that by applying an oscillation field, AC voltage, the effects are completely different,” Cademartiri said. He reported the findings Sunday at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

In their experiments the researchers used a 600-watt power source — about the same as a modest home-theater stereo — to create an electric field near flames as large as 18 inches tall.

They found the field created an organized “flow” of charged particles inside the flame, and that the flame was literally pushed away from the burner and put out.

It’s too early to say how well the effect will scale to larger flames. Cademartiri said he and his colleagues have begun collaborating with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., which has facilities devoted to the study of fire.

“I’m very optimistic that something very relevant is going to come out of this new capability,” he said.

More efficient energy?

The most obvious effect is fire suppression. But there are other applications as well. The world still derives about 90 percent of its energy from burning coal, natural gas and other products.

The potential to better control the internal flow of combustion could lead to more efficient energy production, among other benefits.

“Our hypothesis was that if we could find any new way to control flames in a novel way, we have a real chance to make a real big impact,” Cademartiri said. “This is our hope.”


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: chemistry; electricity; energy; fire; harvard

1 posted on 03/29/2011 9:13:09 AM PDT by thackney
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To: thackney
"Believe it or not?" Most electronics engineers know that a flame is a plasma, and can be controlled electromagnetically. Reporters are just ignorant.

I know a guy who built an audio amplifier using a home-built plasma triode. Made with a bunsen burner.

2 posted on 03/29/2011 9:15:35 AM PDT by backwoods-engineer (Any politician who holds that the state accords rights is an oathbreaker and an "enemy... domestic.")
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To: thackney

So now the municipal fire department can close shop in favor of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers?


3 posted on 03/29/2011 9:18:01 AM PDT by blackdog (The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop)
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To: thackney

Very interesting - I’d like to read more on this!


4 posted on 03/29/2011 9:18:05 AM PDT by Sax
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To: backwoods-engineer

Yea, I remember looking at the flicker from candles while listening to music. Far out!


5 posted on 03/29/2011 9:19:34 AM PDT by Gadsden1st
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To: thackney

Maybe they could build a flamethrower that can shoot balls of fire at a good distance, sort of like photon torpedoes. I would need one of these for shooting squirrels in my backyard.


6 posted on 03/29/2011 9:20:49 AM PDT by Brett66 (Where government advances, and it advances relentlessly , freedom is imperiled -Janice Rogers Brown)
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To: thackney

“Since the time humans first began to control fire around 400,000 years ago...”

Would love to see a source to back this up.


7 posted on 03/29/2011 9:21:03 AM PDT by proudpapa
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To: thackney

Fantastic fire haarp into forest fires let’s give it a real whirl


8 posted on 03/29/2011 9:22:16 AM PDT by Flavius (A)
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To: thackney

“Since the time humans first began to control fire around 400,000 years ago...”

Would love to see a source to back this up.


9 posted on 03/29/2011 9:22:28 AM PDT by proudpapa
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To: thackney

Fire trucks and their electric wands will be common some day?


10 posted on 03/29/2011 9:22:54 AM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Happiness)
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To: Sax

But how does it work? Cademartiri acknowledged that the phenomenon is complex with several effects occurring simultaneously. Among these effects, it appears that carbon particles, or soot, generated in the flame are key for 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.

“Combustion is first and foremost a chemical reaction – arguably one of the most important – but it’s been somewhat neglected by most of the chemical community,” said Cademartiri. “We’re trying to get a more complete picture of this very complex interaction.”

Cademartiri envisions that futuristic electrical devices based on the phenomenon could be fixed on the ceilings of buildings or ships, similar to stationary water sprinklers now in use. Alternatively, firefighters might carry the flame-tamer in the form of a backpack and distribute the electricity to fires using a handheld wand. Such a device could be used, for instance, to make a path for firefighters to enter a fire or create an escape path for people to exit, he said.

The system shows particular promise for fighting fires in enclosed quarters, such as armored trucks, planes, and submarines. Large forest fires, which spread over much larger areas, are not as suitable for the technique, he noted.

Cademartiri also reported how he and his colleagues found that electrical waves can control the heat and distribution of flames. As a result, the technology could potentially improve the efficiency of a wide variety of technologies that involve controlled combustion, including automobile engines, power plants, and welding and cutting torches, he said.

###

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (U.S. Department of Defense) and the U.S. Department of Energy funded this study.

http://wildfiretoday.com/2011/03/28/fight-fire-with-an-electric-wand/


11 posted on 03/29/2011 9:22:58 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer (biblein90days.org))
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To: proudpapa

I know for a fact it was 400,001 years ago.


12 posted on 03/29/2011 9:24:17 AM PDT by Lees Swrd ("Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe and preserve order in the world as well")
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To: Brett66

I am thinking that a p.o. squirrel running around the outside of your house with his tail on fire is not a good thing.


13 posted on 03/29/2011 9:24:31 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer (biblein90days.org))
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To: Sax

Very interesting..It is. Wondering how practical it may be. Where does the fire triangle get broken? Heat, oxygen and fuel?


14 posted on 03/29/2011 9:25:07 AM PDT by Safetgiver (I'd rather die under a free American sky than live under a Socialist regime.)
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To: Gadsden1st

A well-known effect in night clubs with loud sound systems. They call it “bassing” the candles. (long “a” sound)


15 posted on 03/29/2011 9:26:29 AM PDT by Erasmus (I love "The Raven," but then what do I know? I'm just a poetaster.)
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To: thackney; Gadsden1st

Plasma flame triode: http://www.sparkbangbuzz.com/flame-amp/flameamp.htm


16 posted on 03/29/2011 9:27:20 AM PDT by backwoods-engineer (Any politician who holds that the state accords rights is an oathbreaker and an "enemy... domestic.")
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To: thackney

I didn’t know Harvard still did some hard science, I doubt this is in the 15th Century Romanian Feminist Philosophy Course.

lol


17 posted on 03/29/2011 9:27:29 AM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Happiness)
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To: proudpapa

Wikipedia probably.

Fire was used by Homo erectus in northern China more than 400,000 years ago, and there is sketchy evidence suggesting that it may have been used long before that (Gowlett, 1984, pp. 181-82).

http://www.dieoff.org/page137.htm


18 posted on 03/29/2011 9:27:36 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer (biblein90days.org))
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To: Safetgiver
Wondering how practical it may be. Where does the fire triangle get broken? Heat, oxygen and fuel?

"...field created an organized “flow” of charged particles inside the flame, and that the flame was literally pushed away from the burner and put out."

It seems like the flame is separated from the fuel when the charged particles line up and the flame is either separated by being pushed away or allowed to waft up separate from the fuel source? Not really sure.

19 posted on 03/29/2011 9:34:01 AM PDT by Sax
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To: backwoods-engineer

You can also make a loudspeaker out of an acetyline flame—my fellow engineering students would do this at our annual open house.

Then there was the “Ionovac” tweeter, marketed by DuKane and Electro-voice. No diaphragm, just a small volume of ionized gas. You used it for frequencies above several kilocycles, and had a top end for dogs and bats.


20 posted on 03/29/2011 9:34:23 AM PDT by Erasmus (I love "The Raven," but then what do I know? I'm just a poetaster.)
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To: Lees Swrd
I know for a fact it was 400,001 years ago.

What month?

21 posted on 03/29/2011 9:35:52 AM PDT by JohnG45
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To: JohnG45

Ohhh you got me there lol!


22 posted on 03/29/2011 9:37:46 AM PDT by Lees Swrd ("Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe and preserve order in the world as well")
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To: backwoods-engineer
The reverse, using Hi freq current to generate a flame, has been done for many years, e.g. inductively coupled plasma in spectrometers
Temps are around 10000 deg C, more then the surface of the Sun
A plasma flame like this here is generated by ~1000W at 27 MHz chased thru a 3 winding coil.




23 posted on 03/29/2011 9:42:52 AM PDT by Koracan
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To: backwoods-engineer
Audio applied to a candle flame via wire intended for a speaker will delight you with audio generated from the flame. Feed it with a cheap radio or an iPod. Very good high frequency response.
24 posted on 03/29/2011 9:43:26 AM PDT by Myrddin
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To: thackney

Only the morons at Harvard would use massive amounts of power to put out a small fire.

Could be working on Thorium based nuclear power, understanding gravity or electromagnetism, or pretty much anything else.

Only Harvard would come up with ‘Let’s throw money at the fire and see if it goes out’

When do you think burning that place down will sound like the reasonable thing to do? I guess they can buy copper ont the spot market and put big coils around all the buildings. Get a couple of big alligator clips and wait for the reasonable people to storm the place.

At the right moment, they clip into an e-gen panel and put the fire out.

Harvard and Apple - to institutions creating solutions in search of a problem.

They should get together with the idiots across the river from them and discuss what they are going to do to fix the mess they made out of their foundation money.


25 posted on 03/29/2011 9:51:12 AM PDT by RinaseaofDs (Does beheading qualify as 'breaking my back', in the Jeffersonian sense of the expression?)
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To: thackney

Only the morons at Harvard would use massive amounts of power to put out a small fire.

Could be working on Thorium based nuclear power, understanding gravity or electromagnetism, or pretty much anything else.

Only Harvard would come up with ‘Let’s throw money at the fire and see if it goes out’

When do you think burning that place down will sound like the reasonable thing to do? I guess they can buy copper ont the spot market and put big coils around all the buildings. Get a couple of big alligator clips and wait for the reasonable people to storm the place.

At the right moment, they clip into an e-gen panel and put the fire out.

Harvard and Apple - two institutions creating solutions in search of a problem.

They should get together with the idiots across the river from them and discuss what they are going to do to fix the mess they made out of their foundation money.


26 posted on 03/29/2011 9:51:29 AM PDT by RinaseaofDs (Does beheading qualify as 'breaking my back', in the Jeffersonian sense of the expression?)
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To: proudpapa

About the time the first aliens visited earth?


27 posted on 03/29/2011 9:54:19 AM PDT by Joe Boucher ((FUBO) Obammy, the man is too small.)
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To: thackney
BRAIN-STORM: From my "pea-brain" non-scientific point of view:

1) If this new discovery about "electrical/magnetic
affects on fire" and can extinguish it ... what about a "kin-ship" such as;
a) Cancer ... where treatment is being "resisted", by our own body, or as;
b) Insulin for diabetics is being "resisted" ... so, common theory;

Question:
What "IF" water, which disolves many things, such as
"cleaning agents" and are effectively activated with water ...
What "IF" water added to cancer medicine and/or insulin,
but concentrated to the "outer regions", blocking off and
"suffocating" the cancer and/or insulin resistant areas.

This would be similar to electricity "snuffing" out
the fire by pushing it away from the fire source?

... just brain-storming ... ya know ... who knows? ... maybe this whole discovery
may bring out many answers to our "human condition"???

Do NOT knock any ideas ... brain-storming is GOOD!
28 posted on 03/29/2011 9:57:42 AM PDT by slickfree (My favorite TV series "HOUSE" -- I will not view this any more -- Thanks Lisa!)
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To: thackney
“Our hypothesis was that if we could find any new way to control flames in a novel way, we have a real chance to make a real big impact,”

And if you make a big impact you can make a big paycheck while you are impacting.

29 posted on 03/29/2011 10:02:48 AM PDT by Sawdring
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To: RinaseaofDs

You consider 600 Watts, 6 lightbulbs, a massive amount if power?


30 posted on 03/29/2011 10:16:45 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer (biblein90days.org))
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To: thackney

Very cool. Thanks for the post.


31 posted on 03/29/2011 10:22:42 AM PDT by DoughtyOne (The only thing higher than Obama's chin, is his ass facing West five times a day.)
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To: backwoods-engineer

Flame loudspeaker: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_speaker

An alternate way of making a flaming bush speak.


32 posted on 03/29/2011 10:27:38 AM PDT by PapaBear3625 ("It is only when we've lost everything, that we are free to do anything" -- Fight Club)
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To: thackney

Scale it a bit. He used 6 lightbulbs to suppress flames 18 inches high. Surface area of the burn? Not sure.

Flame suppression sometimes equals fire extinguishing, but not always.

Scale it to the raised platform of a computer data center. Make sure the suppression you are talking about doesn’t fry the computers you are protecting. Make sure that as you suppress the flames, you have back up systems that actually remove heat, fuel, and oxygen from the situation.

If not computers, then shipboard bilge fire suppression - same problem only now add additional potential grounding issues. Some items on a ship are sensitive to becoming magnetized, or de-magnetized, and as such its something you have to test for. Add to it that the fire you may be suppressing could be in the generator space itself (which you’d protect with CO2 or Halon - though Halon is on the wane big time).

Any electric or magnetic field you create near or in a system creates all kinds of side effects for which you must account.


33 posted on 03/29/2011 10:37:02 AM PDT by RinaseaofDs (Does beheading qualify as 'breaking my back', in the Jeffersonian sense of the expression?)
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To: RinaseaofDs
You are assuming the little power set they used was maxed out and you are no longer talking about a small fire.
34 posted on 03/29/2011 10:45:34 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer (biblein90days.org))
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To: backwoods-engineer

So what. I have snuffed a candle flame at 25 yards with my flintlock rifle. LOL


35 posted on 03/29/2011 11:04:28 AM PDT by Roklok
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To: Sax

Not really sure. .. Must be beyond my grasp after 30 years?


36 posted on 03/29/2011 11:12:40 AM PDT by Safetgiver (I'd rather die under a free American sky than live under a Socialist regime.)
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To: thackney

It would seem that there’s a pretty simple ‘proof of concept’ observation that can be made -

Do High Voltage Power Transmission Lines have any effect on grass fires or forest fires in their vicinity??

Has anybody ever reported any oddness like that up til now??

Enquiring minds want to know....


37 posted on 03/29/2011 11:18:26 AM PDT by Uncle Ike (Rope is cheap, and there are lots of trees...)
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To: Uncle Ike
Only meaningful if 60Hz is effective. It could be a thousand or million times off the needed frequency.
38 posted on 03/29/2011 11:23:32 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer (biblein90days.org))
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To: JohnG45

I know for a fact it was 400,001 years ago.
What month?
*******************

Silly question. That was long before months existed.


39 posted on 03/29/2011 12:54:00 PM PDT by Louis Foxwell (For love of Sarah, our country and the American Way of Life.)
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To: thackney

My point is that there are lots of ways of suppressing flame. I can make a bomb big enough to blow a fire out too. They do that with oil wells.

Harvard is just rediscovering stuff others have and calling it news. I can’t remember the last major piece of research done by MIT or Harvard in a while.


40 posted on 03/29/2011 1:45:13 PM PDT by RinaseaofDs (Does beheading qualify as 'breaking my back', in the Jeffersonian sense of the expression?)
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