Prototype Design for Thermoacoustic Flashover Detector

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The thermoacoustic flashover detector integrates the phenomenon of thermoacoustics into a fire fighting application. This report presents the prototype design for the thermoacoustic flashover detector to ultimately be implemented in a firefighter's gear. Upon increases in compartment fire heat flux and temperature corresponding to the onset of flashover, the device will produce a loud warning tone to alert the firefighter that flashover is impending. This is critical because post-flashover, the fire transitions to an untenable environment for a firefighter, as well as compromised structural integrity of the building. The current design produces a tone at 115 dB at about 500 Hz upon heating from an external band heater and cooling via an ice/water bath. At 38 mm from the device, this sound level is louder than the 85 dB from fire alarms and distinct from the 3000 Hz tone of smoke detectors. The minimum power input to the device for sound onset is 44 Watts, corresponding to a temperature difference of 150 degrees Celsius at a mean temperature of 225 degrees Celsius across a 2 cm long porous steel wool stack. The temperatures at the hot and cold ends of the stack are 300 and 150 degrees Celsius respectively, which is achieved with a response time of ~100 seconds. The sound is sustained as long as there is a minimum power input of 31 Watts. Although the measurement uncertainties are estimated at 10 degrees Celsius for the temperatures and 5 Watts for the power input, this design provides a foundation for future improvement and quantification of the device. The mechanisms of the thermoacoustics at work and the materials selected for the prototype are presented. Different power level inputs to the device are analyzed and temperatures for operation are determined. Suggestions for future optimization and integration of the device into firefighters' gear are presented.