Engineers have experimented with using sonic waves to douse flames for years—but it took a pair of students to turn the concept into an affordable, hand-held device.

Viet Tran and Seth Robertson, who are both students at George Mason University, spent $600 of their own money to build their prototype, according to the school. The canister directs low-frequency waves to a specific point, while an over-the-shoulder pack that weighs about 20 pounds generates the waves:

"But it's low-frequency sounds—like the thump-thump bass in hip-hop that works," says Tran, who joked that rappers like 50 Cent could probably douse a fire, and that hip-hop celebrity endorsements might be just the ticket to hawk their fire extinguisher.

The duo have patented the idea, and will spend the next year considering how to take it to market. In a school-produced video about the device, Tran speculates that it could end up as a kitchen device, used to put out grease fires and the like. But they also imagine far more futuristic applications:

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But eventually I'd like to see this applied to, maybe, swarm robotics, where they would be attached to a drone and that would be applied to forest fires or even building fires where you wouldn't want to sacrifice human life.

Or even on the ISS or other spacecraft, Robertson said in a release: "In space, extinguisher contents spread all over. But you can direct sound waves without gravity."

[George Mason University]

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