UTC Fire & Security’s Explosion Protection; Faster than the Blink of an Eye

UTC Fire & Security’s products protect people and property around the world against a wide variety of threats; even those that may not seem very threatening – like dust.

In some manufacturing environments, products from industrial processes can accumulate in the air and form a dust cloud. When these dust clouds reach a critical density level and come into contact with an ignition source they can combust and cause catastrophic explosions.

The response time in these situations needs to be fast – especially given that these explosions can produce pressure rates on average of about 150 pounds per square inch within just 0.1 of a second. For comparison, an alert driver takes at least 0.5 of a second to hit the brake after seeing a hazard.

To help protect against combustible dust explosions, UTC Fire & Security has developed an explosion suppression system capable of responding faster than the blink of an eye.

The system uses sensors to detect the shockwave that emanates outwards from an initial ignition. The detection of the shock wave initiates the rapid release of a proprietary sodium bicarbonate suppression agent.

The suppression agent works both chemically to dampen the explosion's reaction and thermally, to remove heat and lower the flame’s temperature to below combustible levels.

“The average time lapse between the initial ignition of the dust cloud until the explosion is suppressed typically takes less than 0.06 seconds (60 milliseconds),” said Randy Davis, Director of Industrial Explosion Protection at the company’s Kidde Fenwal entity.

While the system cannot reverse the initial explosive event, its quick reflexes can greatly diminish the effect, and reduce the likelihood of damage caused by a secondary explosion.

Increased awareness and anticipated regulation could significantly increase the opportunities for this type of life and property saving technology.

In March 2008, the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) wrote to the operators of about 30,000 manufacturing facilities, reminding them of the critical importance of explosion protection systems.

Additionally, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee in Education recently passed a bill in the House which “requires the Secretary of Labor, within 18 months, to promulgate a final occupational safety and health standard regulating combustible dust explosions…” The Bill has now gone to the Senate.

While legislation mandating this type of technology continues to gain traction, UTC Fire & Security is already a recognized leader in industrial explosion protection. In addition to its Kidde Fenwal unit, which provides systems to North and South America, Japan, Korea and South East Asia, three other UTC Fire & Security companies also sell explosion protection equipment – Kidde Brand Explosionschutz in Germany; Incom in Switzerland; and Kidde Products in the U.K.

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