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Ignition hazard of non-metallic dust clouds exposed to hotspots versus electrical sparks

Bu, Yajie, Yuan, Chunmiao, Amyotte, Paul, Li, Chang, Cai, Jingzhi, Li, Gang
Journal of hazardous materials 2019 v.365 pp. 895-904
corn starch, dust, energy, explosions, fires, polymethylmethacrylate, temperature, wood dust
Non-metallic combustible dusts contribute to more than 50% of dust explosion accidents. Almost 38% of dust explosion accidents relate to mechanical malfunction. Compared to electric sparking as an ignition source, the ignition hazard of non-metallic dust clouds exposed to simulated hotspots during mechanical malfunction has received little attention in the literature. Minimum ignition temperature of hotspots (MITH) for corn starch, wood dust, and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) dust fall within a narrow range from 710 to 745 °C although large differences in minimum ignition energy (MIE) were evident. A much narrower dust concentration range (around 1500 g/m3) was observed for MITH than for MIE. A longer ignition delay time when exposed to hotspots also indicated lower ignition hazard compared to ignition by electric sparking. Whether exposed to hotspots or electric sparks, average flame spread velocity (FSV) of PMMA dust was much higher than that of corn starch and wood dust. Once a dust cloud was ignited, pulsating flame propagation was similar for hotspots and electric sparking, but average FSV was higher for hotspots than for electric sparks, due to continuous radiation from the ignition source. At higher dust loadings, layer fires could occur due to sedimentation of many ignited and unburned particles exposed to hotspots.