Launched in the UK at Firex in June was the new Flir A310 ATEX-compliant (zones 1, 2, 21 and 22) infrared camera, which can detect elevated temperatures before the outbreak of fire and ‘see’ through smoke and dust. And not only can it prevent a fire, it can even aid in casualty detection too.
The Flir A310 is not new, having been in the market for a number of years, but Chris Brown explained that due to market demand the decision was taken to integrate the camera in an explosive-proof housing.
A key feature of the A310 is its radiometric features, meaning that it can actually measure temperature. ‘And as you can imagine, once you can do that you can create alarm functionality for identifying a hot spot or an area where temperatures are rising. Applications range in anything from monitoring pipelines and looking for escaping gas or liquid, right over to waste bunkers where there are all kinds of materials with potential for chemical reactions.’
Infrared technology does not ‘look’ into the material itself, explained Chris, but rather it sees the heat that is radiating to the surface. Using the inbuilt intelligence of the camera units, the user can set a temperature limit over which a notification will alarm, for example in the form of flashing lights or horns. The system can be preconfigured to automatically take an image and then email it to the responsible person. ‘It is all highly useful pre-notification of a fire. The interesting thing that thermal detection brings to fire prevention is that you get exactly the same image in daylight as in the middle of the night - and this technology sees through smoke without visualising it. So in an enclosed environment the emergency responders can see a visual image of what they have to deal with, prior to entry.’
More sophisticated systems have been used in the past which link the infrared detection system to a water monitor, which means that hot areas can not only be rapidly spotted, but also dealt with quickly.
Flir is selling around 60 of these systems per year in the UK, estimates Chris, and the expectation is that the new ATEX housing will help establish the technology even further. ‘We have been selling this technology into the petrochem market for some time, but there were limitations to its use without the Atex certification. Its installation had to be temporary and for specific tasks, while now it can be installed permanently in a potentially explosive environment.’
The new ATEX housing is made in stainless steel to withstand harsh environments, and it can even be lacquered for extra protection for offshore conditions. ‘If it’s going offshore we just have to accept that it will eventually have to be replaced – but that is the housing only, not the camera itself.’