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Development of smart, environment friendly, and low-cost fire detection and suppression system (Funded by MHRD and Vimal Fire Controls Ltd.)

IIT Gandhinagar Safety Centre is developing an indigenous technology to develop calibration-free laser-based fire detectors and aerosol-based fire suppressants through a rigorous theoretical, computational, and experimental program jointly undertaken by IITGN and Vimal Fire Controls Private Limited (VFCPL). It is expected that the developed products will replace the existing fire detection and suppressing mechanisms primarily due to their versatility, less overall cost, and lightweight deployment. Since these systems are not water-based, they can practically be utilized in any kind of fire. Also, as small quantities of condensed aerosol powder can deal with relatively large fires, the products based on this technology will be much less bulky compared to their present alternatives.

Glass Facade Building Fire behavior in full scale Building (Funded by UL and IIT Gandhinagar)

There is a continued tragic loss of civilians and firefighters, as shown in several fire statistics. It is believed that one significant contributing factor is the lack of understanding of fire behavior in Commercial & Residential Structures resulting from non-tested facade systems. The changing dynamics of fires as a result of the changes in construction materials, building contents and building size and geometry over the past 20 years compounds our lack of understanding of the effects of ventilation on fire behavior.

For aesthetic and green purposes, most buildings today have facade installations. Considering a safe approach, this requires the facade to be tested and installed in the appropriate manner. Facade fires on initiation engulf the building by soaring to the floor above leading to entry of fire into the building externally. The fire research project taken at IIT Gandhinagar Safety Centre will generate full scale fire data on effectiveness of rated facade, fire stop systems in comparison to non-rated systems. Additionally, the project will also address question of suppression systems required to address facade fires.

High temperature hydrogen combustion phenomena in air – steam system (Funded by BRNS, NRFCC)

Release of hydrogen due to reactor core degradation is a major combustion hazard in the nuclear reactor building. Depending on the composition of combustion mixture, geometry and level of turbulence, deflagration flame can produce very high pressure pulse and temperature shock. This could lead to early containment failure and release of radioactive material. Thus, understanding of hydrogen combustion phenomena is important for designing better safety system in nuclear reactor building. In this project, IIT Gandhinagar Safety Centre will develop a Laboratory Scale Hydrogen Detonation Facility (LSHDF) to study the combustion (detonation) phenomena of hydrogen in air – steam hybrid system using hot metal surface. The data produced from the experiments will be used to validate the theoretically predicted detonation characteristics from CFD study at Reactor Safety Division, BARC. Results of such study will be used to formulate the future design standard and codes for nuclear facilities susceptible to hydrogen release.

Computational Modeling of the Condensed Phase Aerosol

The computational modeling of a novel condensed phase aerosol based fire extinguisher is considered in this study to assess its operational details and performance. A solid propellant is present inside the canister which is ignited using piezoelectric actuators producing hot fire extinguishing gases. The cooling of these hot gases is facilitated by a matrix of chemically active cooling pellets placed along the canister which condenses hot gas and discharges solid aerosol particulates. The initial experimental investigation of the extinguisher carried out at the premises of the industrial partner showed that improper cooling of the hot gases by the pellets can lead to high temperature of the effluent gases and sparks at the exit. This provided the basis for exploring computational modelling to develop a better understanding of the physics of the extinguisher performance and to develop improved experimental procedures on the basis of the results from a computational fluid dynamics model. 

Initial modeling efforts centered on the finite volume solution of the Euler equations modified to incorporate the essential physics of the problem such as mass flow from the pellets and the heat transfer. On the basis of the computed results from this simplified model, a multi-component combustion gas flow inside the extinguisher is computed by solving high fidelity three-dimensional Navier-Stokes equations. While detailed chemical kinetics are not accounted for in the computation, initial experimental estimates of these processes are used in the simulations to account for the effects on dynamics of the process. The computed results show how improper cooling by the pellet region may lead to hot spots in the extinguisher & will be used to improve the experimental design.

Cognitive Engineering for Process Safety

Modern chemical plants regularly handle large amounts of hazardous materials at elevated temperatures and pressures. The consequence of abnormal conditions is not merely production loss but often injury to personnel or worse as was witnessed in Bhopal. Therefore continuous monitoring of the process is necessary to ensure effective and safe operation of process plants. Among the various layers of protection, the role of the human operator in ensuring safe controlled plant operation is of the utmost importance. Recent studies on major process plant accidents point out various improvements needed both in control room design as well as in information flow to the operator. Research in IIT Gandhinagar focuses on the cognitive ability of the human operator to take correct and timely decisions when major disturbances occur in the chemical plant. Since the cognitive abilities of the human operator are limited it is necessary to understand the ways in which information is perceived and processed by the operator, particularly during stressful events. Recent studies on eye gaze tracking reveal the fact of eye-mind relationship in decision making. In our research, eye gaze tracking has been used to analyze the behavior of human operators during normal and abnormal operations. Our preliminary experimental studies reveal intriguing tradeoffs between operators’ speed of response and the accuracy of their decisions.