While 15-year-old Joshua Gao sees a future in his sound waves-based fire extinguishing company, many steps lie ahead before its ready for the market.

Gao founded SAFE (Sound: The Alternative Fire Extinguisher) in 2018 after he and friends at Nashua High School South in New Hampshire found a way to concentrate sound waves at a low frequency and high pressure to extinguish fires. The effort won the 2019 Conrad Innovation Challenge and a presentation at the Nexus conference at the United Nations last week.

Gao’s mission is to mount the sound wave technology on ceilings to provide an extinguisher that is cleaner, more environmentally friendly and faster than conventional methods. “Our goal is to change the entire fire extinguishing market,” Gao said.

With plans to publish their findings in a scientific journal within four months, the technology requires FDA approval, according to Gao. The next step is using waves to put out wildfires, which will require more time and money.

  • “Currently, fire extinguishers make a mess and sprinklers require too much space for homes,” Gao said. “The technology can be placed anywhere. It’s completely clean, and safe and no damage.”
  • “We can already extinguish a candle with sound waves from a phone,” Gao told Karma. “With a focusing apparatus from metamaterial our output is very scalable.” He described a metamaterial as a synthetic with properties not usually found in natural materials. 
  • Karma Takeaway: Even with the support from Tufts University, providing business development, Duke University, providing research tools and law firms like Goodwin Procter, Gao recognizes the need to establish credibility before diving into the market space.