Fire Protection Technologies’ first attack on battery fires

battery fires

Lithium-ion batteries are a growing source of fires. Sensitive to high temperatures and damage, they can degrade quickly and burst into flames. Yet despite their known danger there is no proven way to extinguish lithium-ion battery fires – until now.

Chris Trapnell, National Sales Manager Fire Protection Technologies, says newly formulated fire extinguishing agent Aqueous Vermiculite Dispersion (AVD) is a ground breaker in fire management.

He describes it as a first attack on lithium-ion battery fires.

“Lithium-ion battery fires require copious amounts of water to control the fire. This of course isn’t practical plus the water run-off contains toxins and heavy metals which can be detrimental to the environment” Chris says.

“With AVD, it hardens and creates a crust around the battery which extinguishes the fire and prevents reignition and propagation to adjacent cells or other materials, allowing for safe remediation and disposal of the battery.”

Chris says AVD has been developed over several years in response to the demand for fire-fighting agents that can deal with high temperature flammable metal fires and lithium-ion and lithium polymer battery fires.

It’s a natural, mineral-based agent comprising of vermiculite particles in water. Vermiculite is the name given to a group of minerals or silicates of aluminium, iron or magnesium that expand when heated.

The vermiculite particles are deposited on the surface of the burning fuel to create a film over the top of the fire. The film instantly dries and, because the high aspect ratio platelet particles overlap and bind together, a non-flammable oxygen barrier between the fuel and the atmosphere is produced.

The process has a cooling effect and, as the water content in AVD evaporates, the vermiculite platelets begin to build up and the fire is brought under control.

AVD offers a significant performance improvement over available conventional extinguishing agents when applied to these very particular fire types.

Chris says AVD is chemically and physically inert, only releasing steam when exposed to raised temperatures. It is non-toxic to humans, plant life and animals and is suitable for use in standard fire extinguishing equipment with a specialised misting nozzle.

He says AVD extinguishers have been on the market for about 12 months and are currently going through Australian standards approval. 

Fire Protection Technologies, which is part of the Battery Stewardship Council, are the exclusive national distributor.

“We like to think we’re innovative and in front of the latest technology for fire risks. AVD is certainly one of those products,” he says.

“To have a hand-held extinguisher available that can knock down a battery fire and prevent reignition is an industry changer.”

The technology is also being used in a range of battery fire blankets, capable of withstanding high temperatures for a prolonged time.

battery firesAVD is just one piece in an arsenal of equipment designed to protect waste and recycling facilities. Fire Protection Technologies focuses on unique and special hazard applications with expertise in providing design and engineering solutions.

Flame detection, linear heat detection and spark detection and suppression systems are proven technologies to protect waste transfer stations, waste stockpiles and recycling facilities.

Chris says thermal imaging is also playing a key role because of its early warning ability.

He says working environments in waste and recycling facilities can be challenging. If biological processes exist inside the waste, the movement of oxygen and air over the surface of the pile or bunker causes oxidation which heats up the waste 

This heat is transferred both inwards and outwards but the heat that travels inwards can build-up within the pile and lead to the formation of a high temperature hotspot. This hotspot will then continue to spread until it reaches a point on the surface. 

Here it will interact with oxygen in the air and this can lead to actual ignition of the pile or bunker.

Thermal imaging detection systems use infrared cameras, coupled with a software package, to analyse thermographic images to detect any hotspots before they ignite.

“Thermal imaging provides the earliest warning possible of that type of heating phenomena above and beyond what other technology and the human eye can do,” Chris says.

The cameras can be fixed or mounted as a pan-tilt arrangement which automatically monitor a defined area, continually measuring the surface temperatures. Hotspot differentiation is possible to prevent false alarms caused by other heat sources such as exhausts from plant machinery or motors.

Chris says the system can also be directly integrated to operate with fire-fighting monitors to automatically attack a fire incident.

“These fires can typically escalate quite quickly given the combustible nature of waste, which can be anything from tyres, used oil and green waste to woods, solvents and plastics,” he says.

“We can target a hot spot that’s been detected, and monitors can directly deploy water or fire-fighting mediums to the area. It eliminates the need for human intervention.”

Chris says systems are completely customisable depending on the environment, including the type of waste, external influences, and site size.

Fire Protection Technologies conducts a site survey to determine the appropriate camera layout. Ideally, the resultant layout will provide 3D coverage of the facility and area to be monitored.

Technical support, design and engineering assistance is provided during the development, installation and commissioning of a project.

Chris says it’s part of the company ethos to provide every solution for special hazard problems. 

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