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18-11-2020

Methods for Characterizing Artificial Smoke Generators for Standardizing Inflight Smoke Detection Certification

Journal:
Fire Technology
Authors:
Matthew Karp, Robert I. Ochs

Abstract

False alarm resistant smoke detectors must pass the inflight smoke-detection certification test for implementation in aircraft. Inflight certification testing uses artificial smoke generators due to health and safety. Currently, there are no objective parameters to quantify an artificial smoke generator’s aerosol production for certification testing. Therefore, this study’s design was to create a framework for potential guidelines for standardizing an artificial smoke generator’s aerosol production. Although the aerosols created by artificial smoke generators look like real smoke, there are inconsistencies between models that could create smoke detectors not activating during certification testing. Aerosols created by artificial smoke generators must be similar to smoke for many of the false alarm resistant smoke detectors to alarm. Therefore, verifying which artificial smoke generators produce an aerosol with similar particle characteristics to smoke is essential for the implementation of false alarm resistant detectors in aircraft. Furthermore, standardizing the artificial smoke generators for the total quantity of aerosol produced, rate of aerosol production, and repeatability of aerosol production and quantifying the effects of the ambient environment is necessary to ensure the reliability and integrity of the certification test. One possible result of a non-standard aerosol production during certification testing, specifically in regards to an unexpected overabundance of aerosol production, may cause the certification of smoke detection system that would not alarm the specified threat. Conversely, insufficient aerosol production during certification testing could create the requirement of a lower smoke detection threshold than intended, creating an unfair financial burden. This study found that artificial smoke generators produce an aerosol with similar particle size distributions and light scattering characteristics to smoke created by smoldering foam, smoldering wood, and lithium-ion battery thermal runaway vent-gas. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that aerosols from the tested artificial smoke generators are capable of alarming most false alarm resistant smoke detectors. Furthermore, there were measurable differences in the total quantity of aerosol produced and the rate of aerosol production between smoke generators used by four major airframe manufacturers for smoke-detection certification testing. In addition, changes in ambient temperature and pressure that may occur during a typical flight profile affected an individual smoke generator’s production of aerosol. Sufficiently heating the smoke generator’s mineral oil before aerosol production can mitigate the effects of varying ambient temperatures.

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