CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Scientists have invented a way of controlling fires using a wand that puts out flames by zapping them with electricity, a physicist said Sunday.
The Harry Potter-style device could enable firefighters to quell flames without having to soak property with water and foam.
It will be unveiled this week at a meeting of the American Chemical Society by Ludovico Cademartiri, a Harvard University physicist, according to The (London) Sunday Times.
"Controlling fires is an enormously difficult challenge. Our research has shown that applying large electric fields can suppress flames very rapidly. We're very excited about the results," Cademartiri said.
His team has exploited a phenomenon -- first noticed 200 years ago -- that allows electricity to affect the shape of flames, making them bend, twist, flicker and even die out.
The scientists connected a 600-watt electrical amplifier to a wand-like probe and used it to shoot beams of electricity at a flame more than a foot high. The flame was snuffed out.
Flames contain soot particles that become electrically charged during combustion.
The particles respond strongly to electrical fields and can be blasted away, carrying the flame with them.