Bass Versus Burn

Students Viet Tran (L) and Seth Robertson with their invention, a sound extinguisher, at the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn/Creative Services/George Mason University

Students Viet Tran (L) and Seth Robertson with their invention, a sound extinguisher, at the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn/Creative Services/George Mason University

Two students at George Mason University have come up with a remarkable invention, which could be a game-changer in the eternal war of hippies vs ravers. You want us to turn the music off? Well maybe we’ll just turn your fire off!

From factmag:

By blasting a fire with low frequencies between 30 and 60 hertz range, the extinguisher separates oxygen from fuel, explains inventor Viet Tran, who built the device with fellow student Seth Robertson. “The pressure wave is going back and forth, and that agitates where the air is. That specific space is enough to keep the fire from reigniting.”

The pair faced plenty of opposition to their project initially because they’re electrical engineers, not chemical – several faculty members refused to act as advisers on the project. Eventually their professor Brian Mark agreed to oversee their work and not fail them if the whole thing flopped, said Tran.

Some further details from the Washington Post:

They weren’t at all sure that it would work

“I honestly didn’t think it would work as well as it did,” Tran said.

And neither did their professor

“My initial impression was that it wouldn’t work,” Mark, their adviser, said. “Some students take the safe path, but Viet and Seth took the higher-risk option.”

They MacGyver’d it

Image: Evan Cantwell/GMU

Image: Evan Cantwell/GMU

the goal was to create something portable and affordable like a fire extinguisher that would generate the sound wave at the correct frequency, which they were able to do with the help of an oscilloscope that measured the waves. They connected their frequency generator to a small amplifier and linked the amplifier to a small electric power source. These are hooked up to a collimator that they made out of a large cardboard tube with a hole at the end, which narrows the sound waves to a smaller area.

They tried ultra-high frequencies, such as 20,000 or 30,000 hertz, and could see the flames vibrating but not going out. They took it down low, and at the range of 30 to 60 hertz, the fires began to extinguish…the trial-and-error began. They placed flaming rubbing alcohol next to a large subwoofer and found that it wasn’t necessarily all about that bass, musically speaking, at least. “Music isn’t really good,” Robertson said, “because it doesn’t stay consistent.”

The next level of testing will determine if it can put out large structure fires.

So how does it work?

The basic concept, Tran said, is that sound waves are also “pressure waves, and they displace some of the oxygen” as they travel through the air. Oxygen, we all recall from high school chemistry, fuels fire. At a certain frequency, the sound waves “separate the oxygen [in the fire] from the fuel. The pressure wave is going back and forth, and that agitates where the air is. That specific space is enough to keep the fire from reigniting.”

Like the Internet and SIRI, the technology is straight out of the Pentagon’s secret research division.

In 2012, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency conducted a project on “acoustic suppression of flame” and found that it worked on small levels but could not determine if it would work at “the levels required for defense applications,” the agency said.

One of the students works for the Defense Department…coincidence?

Robertson has been working at the Defense Department and has been offered a job with the Air Force. Tran has interned at a Dulles, Va.-area aerospace firm with a promise of a job after graduation.

This could be a great solution for fire-fighting in dry areas, like Nevada, drought-stricken California, or the new frontier of space:

Although the students originally envisioned their device as a tool to attack kitchen fires and to eliminate the toxic monoammonium phosphate used in commercial fire extinguishers, they can see more uses: in confined areas in space, or wide areas outdoors, such as forest fires. Not having to use water or foam would be a bonus in many situations.

Read the full story at the Washington Post.


Fire truck of the future?



BMOrg, Humboldt Hospital Cut Contract Early

In the wake of the departure of Joseph Pred, long-time head of Burning Man’s Emergency Services Department, BMOrg have severed the half-million dollar a year contract with Humboldt General Hospital to provide emergency medical services at Burning Man.

From the Reno-Gazette Journal:

For the past four years, Humboldt General Hospital has been at the helm of the onsite clinic and any emergency medical services which require transport to either its main facility in Winnemucca, Nev. or other facilities in Reno.

But Burning Man has severed its current medical services contract with Humboldt General Hospital and is reviewing its options.

In 2011, Burning Man signed a five-year contract with Humboldt General Hospital, which was expected to be operate the medical services at the event through this year’s festivities.

Burning Man was to pay $500,000 annually for Humboldt General Hospital’s services at Burning Man, according to a statements in August by Humboldt General Hospital CEO Jim Parrish…Burning Man has made no promises that Humboldt General Hospital will continue to provide medical services for the weeklong event that this year will take place from Aug. 30 to Sept. 7.

“We are looking at possible new medical support service providers, and Humboldt General Hospital is part of that review,” said Jim Graham, special projects senior adviser for Burning Man…

Burning Man expects to have a new contract in place as early as April, according to Graham, who noted that it very well could include Humboldt General Hospital.

…Up until 2011, the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority of Reno, better known as REMSA, served Burning Man.

“It’s a logistical nightmare,” said Kevin Romero, REMSA director.

Setting up a medical clinic in the middle of a desert is no easy task, he said, especially when the bulk of participants are receiving heavy doses of heat and sun exposure. Not to mention, many of them are under the influence of alcohol and drugs…

The Reno-based ambulance service served Burning Man for 12 years before the free spirit festival held in the Black Rock Desert decided to sign with Humboldt General Hospital, which put in the highest bid for the contract at the time.

If Humboldt General Hospital again signs a contract with Burning Man, REMSA may re-enter the equation, according to Pat Songer, chief of Emergency Medical Services at Humboldt General Hospital.

Humboldt General Hospital has provided between 300 and 350 employees on site at Burning Man.

The employees range from nurses to physicians to maintenance staff. Their departments range from emergency medicine to radiology, according to Songer.

One of the resources that Humboldt General Hospital is short of, however, is ambulances.

REMSA has a larger fleet, and Humboldt General Hospital is interested in requesting an extra five ambulances from REMSA, in addition to the eight that the hospital provides on site already.

Still, the decision to bring REMSA back into the equation ultimately would be Burning Man’s, as it will come at an additional cost to the nonprofit.

Songer said that it is the hospital’s hope that Burning Man recognizes the value of bringing REMSA’s backup resources on board since it could namely would improve the event’s mass injury and mass casualty plan.

medical staff that practice on the playa gain a multitude of new skills working in such a remote location that lacks the conveniences provided by a standard clinic or hospital. 

“It’s really the optimal place to practice medicine. It’s really hands on,” said Louis Meneiola, chief of hospital operations for Burning Man.

The majority of incidents treated at Burning Man are dehydration related, followed by minor trauma cases that may include abrasions or lacerations.

Alcohol and drug related cases make up a surprisingly small number of the cases that are seen by Humboldt General Hospital’s staff, though they require perhaps the most attention, Songer said.

In all, Humboldt General Hospital Staff treat an average of about 450 patients each day

Read the full story at the Reno Gazette-Journal

The First Unpowered Flight to Burning Man

Burner Kurtis Carter wanted to skip the entry traffic so much, he jumped off a mountain 70 miles away and flew through the air for more than 6 hours. Sure beats sitting in the Will Crawl line!