Salt Water Can "Burn," Scientist Confirms - National Geographic John Kanzius of Sanibel, Florida, first happened upon the phenomenon earlier this year when running experiments with a radio frequency generator he designed to help zap cancer cells. When he trained the radio waves on a test tube of salt water, it produced an unexpected spark, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Curious, Kanzius and colleagues decided to ignite the water with a match. The water lit and kept burning as long as it remained in the radio frequency field. Pennsylvania State University's Roy then followed up, intrigued by the technology's potential applications for desalination and hydrogen fuel.