FireProActive - space age fire fighting technology

July '99 Fire & Safety

If one compares the technological developments in the fire fighting industry (suppression only) with (for example) the computer industry, it will seem like a comparison between the Turtle and a Rabbit.

FireProActive - space age fire fighting technology

If one compares the technological developments in the fire fighting industry (suppression only) with (for example) the computer industry, it will seem like a comparison between the Turtle and a Rabbit. So it is that any technological break-through in the fire suppression domain is extremely exciting. FirePro, a new technology, initially developed for fire fighting in space (under weightless conditions) has now been introduced in SA, bringing with it a new concept in fire fighting - 3D fire protection, as opposed to the existing 2D fire protection schemes.

According to Failsafe Fire’s Meir Margalit, the advantages of this new 3D scheme include:

• Fastest extinguishing

• Shortest down time

• Minimum consequential damage

• Solid state chemical (non pressurised)

• Virtually maintenance free

• Enhanced confidence in activation

• Possibility of system transfer

• Enhanced flexibility

• Minimum installation time

• Simple relocation (when necessary), with minimal effort and cost.

Says Margalit , “These advantages are over and above all the benefits offered by all other ‘Halon replacement’ systems.”

In describing the background to the development of FirePro, Margalit alluded to its space age heritage. “When man went into space, they had to find answers to the challenges of the dilemma of fire suppression in the midst of severe weight limitations, volume constraints and zero gravity. FirePro turned out to be their solution. FirePro, for example, is 10 times more effective then Halon and 60 times more effective then CO2 from a weight perspective. Furthermore, since FirePro is a solid chemical compound that transforms into an aerosol (very much like a gas) only when activated, the space volume constraint was effectively handled. Because of weightless conditions in space, in case of fire, there is a possibility that a burning object will ‘float’ and ‘contaminate’ other combustible objects in its vicinity,” he said.

“The gravity challenge was also answered by FirePro’s low volume attributes. By minimizing the fire suppressant’s volume, the extinguisher can now be placed inside or very near the identified potential fire hazard,” added Margalit.

Description and Functionality

The FirePro Fire Extinguishing Aerosol Generators (FEAG) are available in various sizes, models and shapes (see Fig. 1), to match most of the applications required. The FEAG can be activated by any one or a combination of the following:

• A temperature sensitive cord (thermal sensor, not illustrated). The activation takes place when the temperature at the sensor reaches a pre-determined level.

• An electrical current supplied to the electrical terminals (this can be done either by an automatic detection system or manual selection).

• The temperature reaches approximately 300oC at the FEAG (this happens only in an extreme case when the previous mentioned options fail).

On activation, the compound is transformed into rapidly expanding fire extinguishing aerosol (1g of solid generates 1 liter of aerosol). The pressure caused by the expansion enables the aerosol penetration into the assigned protected volume, the aerosol carrying micro-size particles of the extinguishing agent suspended in the assigned protected volume.

Figure 1 - FirePro Fire Extinguishing Aerosol Generators (FEAG)

Application differences

Presently, automatic fire fighting systems are constructed in most cases using complex high-pressurized gas systems coupled with sophisticated detection systems. This requires special high-pressure cylinders, solenoid valves, manifolds, pressure reduction devices, special piping and special nozzles. The detection systems rely on detectors that are very bulky and present major obstacles when the need to insert them in small volumes arises.

Says Margalit, “The majority of installations are using volumetric protection (total flooding), coupled with zoning. We referred to this as a 2D scheme because of the area division concept (zoning). The FirePro approach allows the same as the above plus a third level of protection. That is the ability to place the extinguishers inside* identifiable potential fire hazards or very near them. Also, FirePro units can be located inside or near expensive or strategic items. This we refer to as a 3D scheme.”

*FirePro is extremely small and fully autonomous; it is the smallest extinguisher in the world being some 50mm in diameter and 10mm thick. FirePro is operated by its own thermal sensor, making it autonomous.

Extinguishing Principle

The FirePro Fire Extinguishing Aerosol Generator (FEAG), when activated, sets off a chemical reaction producing Nitrogen, Water and Potassium Compounds. The aerosol generated from FirePro FEAG combats and extinguishes fire NOT by using the suffocation (depletion of oxygen) or cooling methods but by inhibiting the chemical reaction of combustion at a molecular level, without depletion the oxygen content.

The chemical composition of this aerosol is of potassium compounds and other gas particles in small quantities (see table 2). The aerosol comprises of micro–sized particles suspended in inert gas in an extremely high ratio between the exposed surface and reaction mass (thereof reducing the quantity of active material necessary for the extinguishing action).

Extinguishing Action

FirePro FEAGs produces an extinguishing aerosol whose particles have an extinguishing power determined by a chain chemical reaction without altering of the oxygen content present in the environment. Extinguishing is effected through two actions, namely physical action and chemical action, the details of which space does not allow.

Attributes and advantages

Environmental- FirePro is regarded as a suitable replacement for Halon, because of its environmental attributes:

· Its effectiveness (as mentioned before)

· It has Zero Ozone depletion potential

· It has Zero Global warming potential (no greenhouse effect)

· Negligible atmospheric life time

· Completely non toxic

· Completely non corrosive

· No depletion of Oxygen (Life supportive)

FirePro is certified as a Green product

Economical - FirePro is regarded as suitable replacement for Halon from an economic perspective because:

· It is inexpensive

· It is fast and effective

· It reduces down time

· It is easy to install

· It is easy to transfer to a new location

· It is virtually maintenance free

· It is suitable for fire of type A, B, and C

Safety - FirePro is regarded as a suitable replacement for Halon from a safety perspective because:

· It allows 3D schemes

· It is autonomous

· It is activated by three different ways

· It is non volatile

· It is operational even at 98% humidity

· It can be thrown into a fire from a distance to reduce fire fighting risks

For details contact Failsafe Fire’s Meir Margalit on tel: (011) , fax: (011) or e-mail:

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