It sounds frightening when the fire signal from the ship’s siren resounds over the deck and a loudspeaker announcement warns of a fire on board. Fire poses a major risk to passengers and staff, whether it is on ferries, cruise ships or commercial ships, as there is no escape — except for emergency boats — and toxic fumes spread quickly through the ventilation systems and air conditioners. Although fire regulations in shipping are very strict, hundreds of fires occur every year, especially on commercial ships.
Most of them break out in the machine room, where ship fuel is pumped at high pressure from the tanks to the engines in pipes. If leaks occur, highly flammable fuel vapors or gases escape. The conventional fire protection detectors prescribed by law react to smoke, flames and heat, but if these occur, it is already too late. With the LAS-10, the developers at Daspos designed an active detector, which detects gases and vapors as well as resulting fine oil particles in the air and sounds the alarm before the substances can ignite.
Vigilant gas detector
At the heart of the gas detector from the Danish shipping technology experts at Daspos is a highly sensitive sensor that permanently scans the ambient air. To ensure that as much air as possible flows through the detector chamber of the LAS-10, a powerful, specially developed blower from ebm-papst sucks up to 10,000 liters of air through a stainless steel filter per minute. The electronics constantly analyze the air composition and compensates for it with specified set values.
Torben Lintrup Kirkholt, Managing Director of ebm-papst in Denmark explains: “Air consists mostly of nitrogen and oxygen. If there are oil particles in the air, they stick to the filter and make it more difficult for air to flow through. Then, the detector sounds an alarm.”
Daspos could patent the idea for predictive fire detection at the beginning of the 2000s. Together with Danish shipping companies and the Danish Technological Institute, it got the LAS-10 ready for the market by 2011. The S-Force axial compact fan from ebm-papst has been part of the overall system since 2013. Kirkholt says, “Initially, we used a different fan. However, in practice it proved unsuitable for high seas. Thanks to its robust finish, the fan from ebm-papst can also withstand the harsh environment at sea.”
The S-Force axial compact fan also has other advantages: it can be controlled in continuous steps from 1,000 rpm to 7,000 rpm using a PWM signal and the open collector tach signal enables the speed to be continually monitored. This flexibility is beneficial because up to 48 different areas of a machine room can be monitored with individual settings. The powerhouse is not particularly quiet in this configuration, but it does not have to be, as Kirkholt says with a smile: “It is very loud in a machine room anyway, so the noise level of the compact fan is not important. The performance, reliability, and robust finish are more important.”
In a machine room, performance, reliability, and robust processing are more important than the noise level.
Torben Lintrup Kirkholt, Managing Director At ebm-papst Denmark
Torben Lintrup Kirkholt likes the fact that ebm-papst also serves smaller markets with modified solutions. Besides, he is certain that his solution has the potential to be successful in other areas as well: “The detector can be adapted to meet the requirements in power stations or refineries, for example. The example of shipping has shown us that anyone who has experienced a fire on a ship does not have to be convinced. Avoiding a fire before it starts is always the best option.”