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Surprising Science

Using Electricity to Douse Flames

Researchers have shown that they can put out a fire by zapping it with electricity—pointing an electrical wand at a flame and applying a current that disrupts a flame’s stability from inside.

While recent research has successfully used electrical current to separate flames from their fuel source, application in the field will not be immediate. “‘It’s still very much premature to say how this could affect firefighters in the field,’ said Ludovico Cademartiri of George Whitesides’s research group at Harvard University, who presented his findings this week at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, California. Previous experiments have shown that applying a constant electric field created small effects on flames, but Cademartiri’s work used an oscillating electric field to greater effect.”


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