Novel Nitrogen Enriched Air for Fire Suppression

Period of Performance: 09/30/2009 - 09/29/2011


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Compact Membrane Systems, Inc.
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The objective of this Compact Membrane Systems (CMS) program is to develop a new platform technology for fire suppression and fire prevention systems around membrane supplied nitrogen enriched air (NEA). The limitation that the atmospheres used in the fire suppression be breathable to occupants in the proximity of a fire is easily accomplished by CMS technology. A breathable atmosphere, between 10% and 16% oxygen, is maintained so occupants can safely remove themselves or be rescued;even while starving the fire of oxygen, breathable levels are maintained. CMS proposes the combination with another safe, effective, environmentally friendly means of fire suppression in the form of water mist. The synergistic combination of these fire suppression technologies can address virtually all the shortcomings of current fire suppression technologies. CMS membranes are uniquely suited to production of breathable atmospheres, and have 10 to 100 times greater flux than the membranes employed in creating oxygen deficient atmospheres typically employed in inerting, leading to proportionally smaller, more compact and even portable devices. They can be operated at lower pressures than required to optimize the performance of the membranes. CMS membranes have only modest selectivity for oxygen over nitrogen permeation in comparison to nitrogen generating membranes. This prevents the membrane from producing atmospheres containing less than 10% oxygen where deleterious physiological effects are expected. An inherent safe auto-regulation feature for the CMS system is not dependent upon the need for complex, reliable analytical and control schemes. The CMS approach seeks environmentally friendly systems. Water sprinkler and deluge systems are the most widely used fire suppression systems, but their use can incur irreparable damage or substantial repair expenses associated with flooding and water damage. Halon systems used to protect electrical equipment, aircraft, ships, and restaurants are being replaced due to their adverse environmental impact. Nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and inert gases are effective in controlling flammable mixtures and in suppressing fires but their asphyxiant nature limits use to uninhabited areas. CMS proposes a breathable NEA atmosphere having a composition within the Unimpaired Physiological Performance Zone employed for fire suppression with minimal concerns for occupant asphyxiation. Phase I met all key objectives including: 1) production of target NEA levels, 2) demonstrated CMS membrane operation well in excess of water mist nozzle operating pressure requirements, 3) easy integration and demonstration of the NEA/water mist system, and 4) demonstrated fire extinction while operating in breathable environment. The Phase II program will: 1) quantify the effectiveness of the NEA+mist combination, 2) optimize system, 3) design and construct a mockup of a fire suppressant delivery system, 4) demonstrate the apparatus under certification protocols suited to the target niche, and 5) position the technology and equipment for commercialization. Additional resources that are available now which were not available earlier include a) commercialization in parallel markets which will sell minimums of 2000-5000 systems in 2008/2009 further enhancing our market ability in 2010 and beyond, and b) strong targeted interest by a large market oriented membrane company. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE A breathable NEA atmosphere having a composition within the Unimpaired Physiological Performance Zone can be employed for fire suppression with no or minimal concerns for occupant asphyxiation. This fire suppression technique can be readily employed in hospital and nursing home rooms. As the technology is developed, it could be used to virtually replace any water deluge system or Halon system.