Our tools for extinguishing fire are almost as primitive as our forefathers who discovered it. Extinguishers that attempt to choke or disrupt the chemical reaction often do just as much damage, so DARPA's been working on a high-tech alternative.
Because they're developing this new way of fighting fires for the US military, the details on how exactly it works are a little vague. But their IFS, or Instant Fire Suppression, program has apparently created this wand looking electrode device that fundamentally destabilizes the plasma in the flame using electromagnetic fields, acoustics, ion injection, and other novel approaches.
They're just a little vague as to which one is actually being demonstrated in this video, which is—admittedly—a bit underwhelming since the flame that's extinguished could have been easily dealt with by a four year old at a birthday party. So more research is needed to be able to scale the system to deal with genuine infernos. But it demonstrates a proof of concept that could one day be installed in every vehicle and building, quickly extinguishing fires without water, foam, or other dangerous chemicals. [Darpa via Geekosystem]