DARPA, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, has announced a new research program into “Instant Fire Suppression.” The agency noted that “Fire especially in enclosed military environments such as ship holds, air craft cockpits, and ground vehicles, continues to be a major cause of material destruction and loss of warfighter life. Essentially, there have been no new developments in fire extinguishing for almost 50 years. The use of chemicals such as halon have fallen into disfavor because of its effect on the ozone layer, and halon replacements have proven less effective. Now, DARPA is calling for a radical new approach to fighting fire. Harking back to the work of Volta, flames are characterized as a cold plasma of mobile electrons and slower positive ions. The reasoning goes if flame cannot exist without a stable plasma, this fact can ultimately be used to extinguish and control flames. DARPA asserts that “the methods of plasma physics and chemistry can be applied to create revolutionary new capabilities for fire suppression.” Possible candidates include everything from electromagnetic fields to static electricity to acoustic ion injections. DARPA’s proposal is postedonline.