Harvard Univerity's Ph.Ds Ludovico Cademartiri and George M. Whitesides have announced a way to electrically extinguish flames at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. Their idea is based on a 200+ year old observation that electricity can used to manipulate a burning flame's motion and also completely snuff it out.
A major component to this ability comes from the way carbon particles in soot react to electrical fields. The team found that the effect can control heat intensities and distribution of the flames. Although the team does not have a clear view of what is actually occurring in the reaction, they still built a portable "flame-tamer" device that firefighters can use. The device contains a 600-watt amplifier. Cademartiri believes that the power required would be far less, more like 60-watts. Best to err on the side of caution. The business end of the device is much like an electric baton or taser, where the firefighter would "zap" at the offending flames.
The team see that this technology would be best used in confined quarters, like vehicles, planes, and rooms. I wonder what this "flame-tamer" would do to all the electrical gadgets it zaps.
ps. The(U.S. Department of Defense) and the funded this study.