Fire Hazards

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Fire and combustion have been defined in various ways. For our purposes, the most important statements in connection with combustion, as a phenomenon, are as follows:
· Combustion represents a self-sustaining run of reactions consisting of physical and chemical transformations. · The materials involved enter into reaction with the oxidizing agent in their surroundings, which in most cases is with the oxygen in the air. · Ignition requires favourable starting conditions, which are generally a sufficient heating up of the system that covers the initial energy demand of the chain reaction of burning. · The resultant of the reactions are often exothermic, which means that during burning, heat is released and this phenomenon is often accompanied by visibly observable flaming.

Ignition may be considered the first step of the self-sustaining process of combustion. It may occur as piloted ignition (or forced ignition) if the phenomenon is caused by any outer ignition source, or it may occur as auto ignition (or self ignition) if the phenomenon is the result of reactions taking place in the combustible material itself and coupled with heat release.

The inclination to ignition is characterized by an empirical parameter, the ignition temperature (i.e., the lowest temperature, to be determined by test, to which the material has to be heated to for ignition). Depending upon whether or not this parameter is determined-with special test methods-by the use of any ignition source, we distinguish between the piloted ignition temperature and the auto ignition temperature.

In the case of piloted ignition, the energy required for the activation of the materials involved in the burning reaction is supplied by ignition sources. However, there is no direct relationship between the heat quantity needed for ignition and the ignition temperature, because although the chemical composition of the components in the combustible system is an essential parameter of ignition temperature, it is considerably influenced by the sizes and shapes of materials, the pressure of the environment, conditions of air flow, parameters of ignition source, the geometrical features of the testing device, etc. This is the reason for which the data published in literature for autoignition temperature and piloted ignition temperature can be significantly different.

The ignition mechanism of materials in different states may be simply illustrated. This involves examining materials as either solids, liquids or gases.
Most solid materials take up energy from any outer ignition source either by conduction, convection or radiation (mostly by their combination), or are heated up as a result of the heat-producing processes taking place internally that start decomposition on their surfaces.

For ignition to occur with liquids, these must have the formation of a vapour space above their surface that is capable of burning. The vapours released and the gaseous decomposition products mix with the air above the surface of liquid or solid material.

The turbulent flows that arise in the mixture and/or the diffusion help the oxygen to reach the molecules, atoms and free radicals on and above the surface, which are already suitable for reaction. The particles induced enter into interaction, resulting in the release of heat. The process steadily accelerates, and as the chain reaction starts, the material comes to ignition and burns.

The combustion in the layer under the surface of solid combustible materials is called smouldering, and the burning reaction taking place on the interface of solid materials and gas is called glowing. Burning with flames (or flaming) is the process in the course of which the exothermic reaction of burning runs in the gas phase. This is typical for the combustion of both liquid and solid materials.

Combustible gases burn naturally in the gas phase. It is an important empirical statement that the mixtures of...
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